Gibbons begins plan to close Nevada State Prison
Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons has set plans in motion to close Nevada State Prison in Carson City, despite a lack of approval by the state Legislature.
Nev. Secretary of State Ross Miller said Gibbons overstepped his authority in managing the state’s prisons, and called for an emergency meeting next week of the Board of Prison Commissioners to discuss the issue.
Miller said Nevada’s constitution specifically gives the board authority over the prisons.
The governor’s position is that he doesn’t need legislative or the prison board’s approval to phase out the prison and transfer about 650 inmates and more than 200 employees, Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said Thursday.
Burns told The Associated Press that prisons in the past have been closed without approval from the board or the Legislature.
“The governor believes history shows he is clearly within his power to ask (Department of Corrections Director Howard Skolnik) to take the action that he deems appropriate,” Burns said.
A phone call to the Nevada Department of Corrections by the AP was not immediately returned.
Burns said Gibbons is scheduled to attend the board meeting.
Inmate transfers have already started and will take about six to eight months, Burns said. Gibbons announced that monthly furloughs for prison employees will start July 1.
Nevada State Prison employees will be used to help plug gaps created by furloughs in other facilities, Burns said, adding that the state hoped “all 208 positions can be moved to other DOC posts.”
Gibbons said closing the prison will save the state at least $3 million per year. Burns said that number is down from $12 million, had the prison been closed when recommended one and a half years ago.
Legislators wrapped a six-day special session on March 1 without choosing to close the prison, as Gibbons pushed. Gibbons, now a lame duck after losing in a GOP primary election this month to Brian Sandoval, targeted the facility for closure.
Legislative leaders declared the plan dead in February, with Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, saying shutting down the old prison would cost money in the long run.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees had protested the disruption for prison guards.
The Nevada Department of Corrections runs eight other facilities in the state. Nevada State Prison was established in 1862 and was rebuilt after an 1867 fire.
“There are cells where the bars don’t work. It has outlived its usefulness,” Burns said. “It’s had a great life, but it’s over.”
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