The Nevada Board of Examiners voted Tuesday to recommend the state take over operation of the Southern Nevada Women's Prison.
The recommendation will go to the Interim Finance Committee later this month.
It will cost the state about $10.5 million to operate the facility next year.
The state sought bidders to operate the prison in North Las Vegas after Corrections Corporation of America decided not to renew its contract. Corrections Corporation of America has operated the facility since it opened.
There were three bidders - all saying they could operate the women's prison for at least $1 million less than the state.
But Director of Corrections Jackie Crawford said the bids were not "sufficient to meet the needs of that institution."
She said none of the bids includes costs of medical services. The state bid includes medical services for the more than 400 women inmates. Deputy Director of Corrections Daryl Rexwinkel said that would have added at least $850,000 more to the private bids, wiping out most of the savings a private contract would provide.
"On the operations side, we're going to pay more, but we're saving about as much on medical," he said. "It's pretty much a wash."
Crawford said the private bidders also don't provide the same kind of mental health and other programs designed to help the women function in society after their release. She said that raises potential legal issues because the state's male prisons do have full state medical, mental health and other programs.
"In the long run, it will cost a lot less," she said. "I believe it's the best thing and the right thing to do."
She pointed out that, if the number of women inmates goes above the projected 462, the state would have to pay a private contractor at least $42.83 per inmate day. The state, she said, would see its costs for added inmates rise only about $1,200 a year - primarily for food.
Crawford also expressed concern the private bidders would be able to keep guards because they pay much less than the state and offer half the benefits.
She said even the state has trouble keeping correctional officers from leaving for local law enforcement positions in the Las Vegas area.
Gov. Kenny Guinn and Secretary of State Dean Heller agreed and voted to support recommending that the legislative Interim Finance Committee approve state takeover of the women's prison.
Contact Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.