Geoff Dornan

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April 21, 2011
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Correctional officers call for prisons audit

The head of the Nevada Corrections Association has called for an audit of the Nevada Department of Corrections over the plan to shut down Nevada State Prison in Carson City.

Gene Columbus sent a letter to Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, saying the head of the department has failed to provide claims closing the prison would save money without endangering inmates and correctional officers.

"As you know, the new governor of this state, like his predecessor Jim Gibbons, has proposed to close NSP in Carson City, which would result in the transfer and possible layoff of over 100 NDOC employees and the reassignment of over 600 inmates," the letter says.

He said lawmakers have already rejected that idea twice, instead appropriating $17.6 million this fiscal year to continue operating the prison. He said that decision "clearly reflects the Legislature's intention to protect the jobs of a sizable staff employed at the facility."

Columbus said Gov. Brian Sandoval has included the closure again.

Director of Corrections Greg Cox told lawmakers earlier this year the plan is to transfer most of the more than 650 inmates at NSP to High Desert in Southern Nevada which has two new and empty units capable of housing them.

He said it will save millions because, with some units more than 100 years old, NSP is the state's least efficient prison. He said the prison requires one correctional staffer for every 4.7 inmates while the new institutions like High Desert only require a staff member for every 11 inmates.

As a result primarily of the staffing needs, it costs the state $23,615 a year to keep an inmate at NSP but just $14,061 a year at High Desert.

Columbus, however, said the prison administration has "consistently failed to provide adequate supporting documentation for their budgetary claims."

He pointed out during earlier discussions that, every time the issue comes up, the total mount of projected savings is different.

Columbus said a review of operating costs by legislative auditors would settle the argument.

"It is imperative that the Legislature at least have an opportunity to review the findings and recommendations from an audit of NDOC's financial position before it makes a determination of whether the closure of NSP is in fact unavoidable," he said in the letter.

Sandoval Senior Policy Adviser Dale Erquiaga said he doesn't believe an audit is needed at this point. NDOC was last audited in 2006 and Erquiaga said he believes the cycle for full agency audits is every 10 years.

He also said he disagrees with the claim the department hasn't provided enough information to justify closing NSP.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Apr 21, 2011 11:16PM Published Apr 21, 2011 11:15PM Copyright 2011 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.