Last inmates to leave Nevada State Prison next month

Thank you to and FFIP for alerting us to this news item:

From: LVRJ

Dec 6, 2011

CARSON CITY — The aging Nevada State Prison will be emptied of its last 140 inmates and 73 staff members on Jan. 9, nearly three months before the closure date authorized by legislators, the state’s top prison official said Monday.

Corrections Director Greg Cox told the state Board of Prison Commissioners that he has followed the intent of the legislators who were concerned about prison workers losing their jobs unnecessarily. He said jobs will be found in other prisons for most staff members who want them.

Cox said some employees who refuse to relocate to a prison 100 miles away in Lovelock will be laid off, but they will be eligible for jobs when there are openings in Carson City.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairman of the prisons board, told Cox to prepare a written report on his closure plan and submit it to legislators and the commissioners.

Sandoval and fellow Prison Commissioners Ross Miller, the secretary of state, and Catherine Cortez Masto, the attorney general, asked why they had not been told earlier of Cox’s plan closing the prison before they expected. They did not, however, block the move.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, insisted in May that the prison remain open until April 1 so that jobs could be found for staff members in other prisons. Sandoval had proposed closing it Oct. 1 of this year but couldn’t get the support to do so. Horsford did not respond for comment Monday.

“The intent of the Legislature as I understand it was to reduce layoffs in the Carson (City) area and reduce the likelihood that staff would have to relocate in other areas of the state,” Cox said after the meeting.

He said the Corrections Department ran up $2.5 million in unbudgeted overtime costs in July through September. That was blamed on other prisons not having a sufficient number of corrections officers while the Nevada State Prison had more than it needed to care for its declining inmate population.

After officers are transferred from Nevada State Prison to other prisons, the overtime costs should drop, he said.

Cox will be required to justify the overtime and seek emergency funds from the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee, which meets Dec. 15.

The 144-year-old prison held 700 inmates earlier this year when the Legislature approved its closure as a cost savings measure. They estimated the closure would save $15 million. Repeated attempts by former Gov. Jim Gibbons to close the prison had been blocked by legislators.

Most inmates have been or will be moved to new wings in the High Desert State Prison near Indian Springs, about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It costs $14,000 a year to keep an inmate there, compared with $23,000 at Carson City .

Cox said jobs already have been found for most prison workers at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center and conservation camps in the Carson City area.

Sixteen guards agreed to take jobs at the Lovelock State Prison. Thirteen others can take jobs there but have refused, a step allowed by regulations because of the long distance from their current jobs.

Cox could not estimate the total number of layoffs after the Jan. 9 closure.

Read the rest here.


Door to clang shut on ancient state prison
Las Vegas Sun

By Cy Ryan

Saturday, May 14, 2011

CARSON CITY – The ancient Nevada State Prison, initially opened when Abraham Lincoln was president, is finally going to close.

The Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee voted Saturday to phase out the Carson City facility by April 2012 at a savings of more than $17 million.

Most of the 682 inmates will be transferred to the High Desert State Prison in Clark County, along with 59 staff.

Gov Brian Sandoval proposed in his budget the closure by Oct. 31 this year, but the budget committees, on the recommendation of Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, delayed the phase out.

Horsford said more time was needed to plan the transfer and this would give the officers who are losing their jobs more time to find other employment. And those who are being transferred to High Desert will have more time to re-locate.

The prison, one of the oldest in the United States, was a hotel when purchased by the state in 1862. It burned in 1867 and was rebuilt.

There will be 105 positions eliminated by the closure. But Greg Cox, acting director of the state Department of Corrections, said some of those jobs have been kept vacant.

He said only about 30 officers would lose their jobs. Almost all the officers will retain their employment if they want to move to Las Vegas or other prisons.
Horsford, chairman of the Senate Finance, got assurance from Cox that there were no plans for building a new prison or for expanded facilities.

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, complained the former corrections director didn’t do any maintenance on the state prison. He said he would not support closure because so many people are affected.

The joint committees voted down the recommendation of Gov. Sandoval. And there was applause from prison employees in the audience.

But then Sandoval offered the plan to keep it open six months longer than the recommendation and that passed.

Read the rest here.

Closure of Nevada State Prison gaining traction

By Geoff Dornan 

Feb 16, 2011

 Nevada Appeal

Support for the plan to shut down Nevada State Prison appeared to gain some traction among lawmakers touring the historic institution Tuesday.

“I’m leaning toward it’s a logical decision,” said Assembly Judiciary Chairman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, following the two-hour tour of the historic prison on Fifth Street.

The previous director of corrections Howard Skolnik tried twice to shut down the prison, the state’s oldest and most labor intensive institution. Lawmakers including Horne and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, objected not only to the loss of nearly 200 jobs in the Carson City area but to what they argued was an ill-

conceived and vague plan with estimated savings that seemed to change with every presentation.

Skolnik’s replacement Greg Cox, however, said he has much firmer numbers and a more detailed plan. His estimate is closing the prison would save $16.1 million over the biennium, primarily in salaries and benefits to the correctional workers who now staff the prison.

Cox said while the prison takes almost 200 employees to operate and manages more than 700 inmates, the new, vacant units at High Desert Prison in Southern Nevada would require only 59 officers to handle 672 inmates.

He said if lawmakers act soon and give him until Oct. 31 to shutter the prison, he can dramatically reduce the number of layoffs to as few as 30.

“The numbers do make a little more sense than last time,” said Horne. “There’s a better plan in place to absorb the inmates.”

Gene Columbus representing the correctional workers said the union still opposes that move because, with one less medium security institution, the system would “lose flexibility, the ability to manage inmates.” He said that increases the chances of inmates who shouldn’t be housed in close proximity being able to get to each other and cause problems for other inmates and staff.

Several other members of the Judiciary Committee said they too support the plan including Republicans Richard McArthur of Las Vegas, Ira Hansen of Reno and Kelly Kite of Douglas County.

“I can’t argue with the facts they gave us when we’ve got a new prison with empty beds,” said Kite.

Hansen said he agrees with closing it: “We’re in such a financial mess that every penny needs to be accounted for.”

He suggested the state might recoup some money from the institution by turning the oldest parts of it, built in the 1800s, into a museum.

Read the rest here.


Nevada DOC Recommends State Prison Closure and charging onetime for a visit at ESP!

From a visitors’point of view: Has Howard Skolnik ever seen the empty visiting room at ESP? Does he know how much it already costs visitors to get to Ely from anywhere? What about cutting the number of lawsuits against NDOC by NDOC keeping to their own rules?

From: Correctional News

Prison officials here say $9 million a year could be saved annually if the Nevada State Prison in Carson City was closed and turned into a tourist attraction or training center, according to reports.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Prison officials here say $9 million a year could be saved annually if the Nevada State Prison in Carson City was closed and turned into a tourist attraction or training center, according to reports. In promoting efficiency in state government, Nevada Department of Corrections Director Howard Skolnik said other prisons could house the more than 600 inmates presently at Nevada State Prison, the state would not need to build another prison for 10 years.

Money saved from the closure could be put into other areas, such as education.In his proposed budget submitted to Gov. Jim Gibbons, Skolnik not only called for the prison to be closed, but suggested the elimination of extra pay for those officers working in rural areas. Skolnik said he reduced the extra pay for rural officers to get within the 10 percent reduction ordered by the governor.

He also recommended a one-time $15 charge for a person who visits an inmate, which would cover part of the background check cost. The downturn in the economy has also nixed a plan to build an industrial park in Clark County on 22 acres the prison owns.

Nevada Correctional Officers Association President Gene Columbus questioned how much money could be saved and predicted that eliminating extra pay would result in a “mass exodus” of workers.

State prison gets a reprieve from ax

From: Las Vegas Review-Journal
July 13, 2010
Governor outvoted on closure plan


CARSON CITY — Nevada’s oldest prison will be allowed to get a bit older.

For the second month in a row, the state Prison Board’s Democratic members voted 2-1 Tuesday to block an attempt by Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons to close the 140-year-old Nevada State Prison.

Gibbons had called for the closure to cut spending because of a drop in state tax revenues caused by the worst economic slump since the Great Depression.

Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto want legislators sitting on the Interim Finance Committee to use as much as $8.3 million in an emergency fund to exempt correctional officers throughout the state from mandatory one-day-a-month furloughs and keep the prison open.

They asked Corrections Director Howard Skolnik to present such a request, including the amount of money he needs. His request would be reviewed by the state Board of Examiners and later the Interim Finance Committee.

Read more here.

State prison barbecue under investigation

July 3, 2010
By F.T. Norton

Prison officials are investigating a fundraiser at Nevada State Prison last weekend in which female members of a band were allegedly scantily clad and a motorcycle was brought into the yard for inmate pictures.

Nevada Department of Corrections Spokeswoman Suzanne Pardee confirmed Friday that the NDOC inspector general’s office is interviewing staff “to find out just what went on” during a barbecue and inmate fundraiser June 26, hosted by the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“The event itself was an approved fundraiser,” said Pardee. “It is being looked into by our inspector general’s office. If we should find out any inappropriate actions were taken by our staff, then they shall be disciplined appropriately.”

A copy of the minutes from an NSP staff meeting on Tuesday refer to the barbecue as a “fiasco.” There’s also mention of the motorcycle being brought onto the yard and used for photographs.

“Information gathered at this juncture point(s) to band members dressing appropriately for entrance into NSP and subsequently changed their attire at the time of performance,” the minutes read.

Some who witnessed the band, and asked to remain anonymous, said two female band members wore only bras or bustiers and made sexual remarks during the performance. There are also allegations that some corrections officers were aware of the behavior but refused to put a stop the party.

Read more here: Nevada Appeal

Update: See also:
8NewsNow Investigative Reporter Colleen McCarty:
I-Team: Prison Party Reports Overblown According to Organizer

Board temporarily halts Nevada State Prison closure

June 23, 2010
By David McGrath Schwartz

CARSON CITY — A divided Board of State Prison Commissioners temporarily stopped the closure of Nevada State Prison in Carson City on Wednesday, even after the director painted a grim picture of the state’s correction system and said he needed staff and inmates transferred to other facilities.

Gov. Jim Gibbons said he would still give the department authority to transfer prisoners out of the facility for security reasons.

This prompted Secretary of State Ross Miller to warn against an end-run around the board and told the governor not to “act like a petulant 15-year-old.”

Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said they wanted to see the detailed plan on how the 700-bed prison would be closed. The board will meet again July 13. Miller and Masto told Corrections Director Howard Skolnik they should have been brought in to make the policy decision to close the prison.

It’s unclear how Gibbons will react. Gibbons has maintained that the director of the Department of Corrections answers to the governor, and not to the board.

Gibbons said if it was a matter of safety, prisoners would be transferred out. “I’m not going to stand by and let the security of the officers and community be put in danger,” he said.

Gibbons, who makes up the third member of the board, voted against the delay. He also questioned how much authority the board has over the Department of Corrections. “We’re looking at our legal options,” he said after the meeting.

Skolnik said directors and governors have unilaterally made decisions to close prisons in the past.
A deputy attorney general said statute gives the board authority over the state prison system.

Skolnik described a prison system that is already at 85 percent of what an audit said should be minimum staffing. He said violent incidents have gone up nearly 50 percent. As the system closes gyms and programs for inmates to save money, violent incidents would continue to increase. “As you take things away, prisoners have less to lose,” Skolnik said.

The latest stress on the system are furloughs set to begin July 1. The Department of Corrections has, until now, been exempt from unpaid days off because of safety concerns.

Skolnik said existing problems will be exacerbated unless he has the ability to move staff and inmates at Nevada State Prison to other, more secure facilities.

In the past week and a half, about 200 prisoners have been removed from Nevada State Prison.

Skolnik said he could institute the furloughs, but he’ll have to use additional overtime money.

Gibbons agreed to come back in the interim with a detailed plan for the closure. But, he said, “I’m still going to ask Director Skolnik to do what’s necessary to ensure the safety of the staff and community.”

Miller recognized the giant loophole that could provide.

“Whether or not there’s a gray area, and whether or not there’s an opportunity to play political games with that or act like a petulant 15-year-old is up in the air,” Miller said.

Miller also had a tense exchange with Skolnik when Miller suggested that the plan to close the prison was “secret.” Skolnik said they would not be publicly releasing details about inmate movements or staffing that could affect security, but he said he would provide the information to the Prison Commissioners.

Read more here:
Las Vegas Sun

Video: Nevada State Prison: rundown & outdated or effective?

My News4, June 18, 2010


See also here:

Secretary of State Ross Miller has called for an emergency meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners next Wednesday to prevent Gov. Jim Gibbons from shutting down Nevada State Prison.

“Thus far the plan to close NSP has been justified with absolutely no documentation showing it a sound plan,” he said. “I think it’s fiscally irresponsible and is going to jeopardize public safety.”

The prison commissioners, Miller said, have the authority to block the governor’s executive order under the constitutional provisions giving that panel the power to oversee operation of the prison system. That board consists of the governor, Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who has backed Miller on the issue in the past.

“There has been nothing presented at a board of prisons meeting in support of closing NSP,” said Miller.

When the latest move to shut down the 100-plus year old prison on 5th Street was announced Thursday, Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said he has legal counsel’s support that where inmates are housed is his decision, not the Legislature’s or the prison commission’s.

He said the officers at NSP are needed to fill staffing gaps at other area prisons once mandatory day-a-month furloughs begin in July.

Lynn Hettrick, deputy chief of staff to Gibbons, backed Skolnik on that point: “We believe he has the right to run the prison system the way he needs to.”

Miller said closing NSP has also been rejected more than once by the Nevada Legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, both D-Las Vegas, issued a statement objecting to “the sudden closure of this prison without a plan for transferring and housing the prisoners.” They said the closure doesn’t make sense, especially when there is a chance the system will run out of inmate beds even with NSP open.

The old prison holds up to 700 inmates, and Skolnik said Thursday his plan is to shut it down over the course of the next few months, moving inmates to other institutions and moving the prison’s staff to Northern Nevada Correctional Center, Warm Springs — both in Carson City — or Lovelock.

He said those staff positions are crucial to inmate and staff safety since furloughs will further stretch an already dangerously thin staffing ratio. Without moving those positions, he said, he doesn’t believe his officers can safely take the furloughs.

Union officials — who have pushed legislative Democrats to block the closure plan for more than two years — also protested. Gene Columbus of the Nevada Corrections Association charged that the governor’s order was a surprise attack which would jeopardize the governor’s responsibility to protect the public. Ron Bratsch of the northern branch of the correctional officers association said lawmakers voted not to close it and that they and the prison commission have the final say, not the prison director.

Miller said historically, the prison commissioners have given the director discretion to run the prison but that closing an entire prison is unprecedented.

Skolnik said that’s not the case, that directors have three times shut down Southern Desert Correctional Center and that he shut Silver Springs Conservation Camp — all without legislative or commission permission and with no challenges to that authority.

Miller and Gibbons have been butting heads for several years over the commission’s role in prison system management. Gibbons contends the commission is “a policy board,” with no role in the department’s budget.

Read more here..

Director of Nevada prison system under investigation

Las Vegas, NV– The director of the Nevada prison system is under investigation by Metro.

An employee at High Desert State Prison filed a report at the end of February, claiming Howard Skolnik got angry during a meeting with about 30 medical staffers and threatened to shoot them with a shotgun and sniper rifle.

A prison spokeswoman tell us Skolnik doesn’t own either type of weapon.

She also says he can’t comment because of the investigation, but adds he’s not concerned about the outcome.

No charges have been filed in the case.

Governor lays out cuts: $895 million in cuts include closing NSP, more mining taxes

Brace yourself, visitors of prisoners in Nevada… In cutting of ‘costs’, visiting your loved ones in prison will be on the cutting table…

Source: Nevada Appeal

By Geoff Dornan
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Tuesday officially called for a special session of the Nevada Legislature on Feb. 23 to balance a state budget now $881 million short.

The list of budget cuts included in the proclamation and backup documentation projects $12.2 million in savings and 136 layoffs by shutting down the old Nevada State Prison in Carson City.

It also directs that corrections employees join the rest of state service in taking furloughs, which will rise from 8 hours unpaid leave each month to 10 hours.Of the roughly 18,500 state employees, 2,709 are exempted from the furloughs, 1,923 of them in the Department of Corrections. Almost none of the rest are general fund positions. They are primarily paid by federal money. Those in the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection are funded by a mill tax on utilities.

All will now take furloughs.

The consumer protection workers, according to assistant attorney general Jim Spencer, have been taking furloughs despite the exemptions.

For the federally funded employees, Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said they will take furloughs and the money saved will be used in operations or to hire more workers in critical posts so that it doesn’t go back to the federal government.

The list also includes several revenue raising proposals — the largest of which is eliminating numerous tax exemptions now allowed mining companies. The mineral tax changes would generate an estimated $50 million this two-year budget cycle.

Gibbons also called for changes to force collection of sales taxes on Internet purchases. There was no estimate how much revenue that would produce.Gibbons rejected the suggestion that those proposals constitute tax increases.“These are not new taxes. They are already required to pay those taxes,” he said of the Internet tax. “Businesses conducting business in the state of Nevada are actually escaping those taxes.”

Of the mining tax, he said the plan involves “closing loopholes, not raising taxes.”
“We’re clarifying the deductions they are allowed to take.”

Mining Association Director Tim Crowley said he believes mining as well as other businesses will have to participate in solving the budget crisis. “In the end, there will be some kind of package that will probably include mining,” he said.

Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said some of the cuts he worried most about were restored in his budget, including 77 welfare workers and caseload growth for supported living programs for the disabled and mentally ill.

Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said he believes the furloughs are “doable” in the prison system but will require rolling lockdowns of prison units, reduced visitation and closing towers on a rotating basis.

DMV Director Edgar Roberts said his agency will almost certainly take advantage of the proposal to allow staff to work four 10-hour shifts weekly, which may result in closing DMV offices on Mondays.The proposal hits school districts and the university system not only for the 10 percent cuts imposed on other state agencies but for an additional 1.75 percent reduction in payroll. With the 4 percent cuts the university system and school districts budgeted this year — but didn’t implement — that raises those entities to the same 5.75 percent overall pay cut faced in the rest of state service. That will cost the university system $9.5 million and public schools $35.7 million.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said it will be up to the system of higher education and the districts whether to meet those cuts with lower salaries or layoffs. To give them more flexibility, however, the proclamation includes removing mandates now imposed on school districts for such things as class size reduction, books and equipment spending and full day kindergarten, giving them much more flexibility to handle the 10 percent budget cuts they face.

The universities get another hit, however, as the plan takes about $12.7 million currently budgeted for them through the Millennium Scholarship program. There are currently some 20,000 students attending college on that scholarship.

The detailed proposals include sweeping any and all possible money from numerous reserve and other accounts as well as outright transfers of money from the Millennium Scholarship Fund, Public Health Trust Fund, Unclaimed Property and the Fund For a Healthy Nevada.

State payments for retired employee health insurance would be suspended and the retiree group investment trust tapped for the $14.7 million that would cost.

The governor’s proposal would take $35 million from the Department of Taxation’s surety bond account, which is funded by bonds required of numerous businesses to operate in Nevada. The danger there is that those businesses are entitled to get the money back under certain circumstances.The plan would also take most of the Insurance Insolvency Fund which protects people with insurance claims if their company goes under. It would take almost all of the Wildlife Heritage Fund which hunters pay into to protect and manage game in the state.The plan would generate just under $11.3 million by giving the state a state benefits plan premium holiday one month. The premiums would have to be made up from the plan’s reserves.

In addition, the plan envisions collecting $30 million next year by having the company Insurenet install cameras on roadways around the state to catch unregistered vehicles. Deputy Chief of Staff Lynn Hettrick said actual revenues from that program should be much higher since an estimated 22 percent of the vehicles on Nevada roads are believed unregistered.Altogether, the proposals total about $895 million in cuts or revenues generated to cover the budget shortfall this budget cycle.

While Gibbons said lawmakers are aware of nearly everything on the list, they have some disagreements that will have to be worked out.

One of those is his call to repeal collective bargaining for local governments and school districts, which lawmakers have refused to even draft into potential legislation.

Chief of Staff Robin Reedy said the proclamation is just the first take on what lawmakers will have before them when the special session convenes. She said other elements are still being worked out and that additional proclamations can be expected in the coming week.

At the same time, here is a news item from News 4 about the amount of money that is paid to keep employees of NDOC on paid leave because of an investigation:

Paid leave adds up for prison system
Monday February 15, 2010 12:00am PST

Top Story Fact Finder
Joe Hart – News 4

A News 4 investigation into paid administrative leave in our state government has uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent to pay people who are not working.The Department of Public Safety has now adopted new policies to cut down on the amount of money paid to employees who are put on leave because they’ve been accused of some type of wrongdoing. Last year the bill for paid administrative leave at DPS, which oversees the Nevada Highway Patrol, came to $370,000.

When we contacted the department of corrections to find out how much it spends on paid administrative leave, we were first told that information would not be available.Suzanne Pardee, the prison public information officer, told us:

“We could probably get an overall amount, but it would not break it down to administrative leave. I don’t have specifics for you.”

Two hours later, Pardee was able to find the information we had asked for. She says the prison system paid out $400,000 last year to workers who were under investigation after being accused of some type of wrongdoing.

One employee remained on paid leave for 16 months. Pardee says the department is taking steps to address the issue of paid administrative leave. The director of the department, Howard Skolnick, is now using his authority to terminate some employees who’ve been accused of wrongdoing.

It’s one way for the state to cut down on the amount of paid leave by avoiding lengthy investigations.

If you think you know of any examples of people taking advantage of paid administrative, contact Joe Hart at