Prisons director Glen Whorton says residents near the Nevada State Prison on Fifth Street can be assured they aren't in any danger from the prison, contrary to a flier hung on some of their doors this past weekend.
The unsigned flier purports to be from correctional officers at the prison and says the institution has become unsafe because of "a heavy handed management approach that has created a rift between the management and the officers."
The flier says the prison has recently been increased from a medium-security to a high-medium-security prison and says a fight that resulted in one inmate being hospitalized two weeks ago could be a sign of things to come.
Whorton said the prison houses the same class of inmates it has for 20 years and that if one fight in the yard is the worst incident since he appointed Bill Donat to run the prison, then it's a pretty quiet place.
"It's a prison that has always been filled with violent offenders. We are charged with managing the most dangerous people in society. That's the only incident since Mr. Donat got there and staff did a great job of mitigating that incident by immediate intervention," Whorton said.
"And in terms of threats to the community, I don't understand how an incident like that threatens the security of the community," Whorton said. "Nobody jumped the fence. No one escaped into the community."
He was joined by Ed Flagg, president of the Correctional Officers Association, who said the type of inmates at NSP hasn't changed and that correctional officers did an excellent job of stopping the May 23 fight. He said the inmates at NSP are violent offenders and that fights and other incidents happen, but they don't compromise public safety when they're controlled by staff.
"They're complaining about communication with the warden. How does communication affect public safety when the inmates are locked up? I don't always agree with Glen Whorton, but let's focus on the real issues: staff safety and public safety."
He said the flier upset some of his members who object to the suggestion they aren't protecting the community. He said the potential for trouble is there with five prison facilities in the Carson City area, but that prison workers and officials do a good job of keeping the community safe.
Flagg and Whorton both declined to name who may have produced the flier but said the unnamed authors may be officers who were disciplined for conduct on the job.
"We have taken personnel action against some staff because they violated security," Whorton said.
Flagg said no one in his organization was involved but he would have more respect for the flier if the authors had signed their names.
"I think it's a disgruntled employee who possibly lost their job or is under investigation trying to take the focus off them and put it back on the department," he said.
One person who received the flier, Michelle Peltier, said she was somewhat concerned but not sure if it was something serious or just an upset employee. She lives on East Fifth Street near the prison and said she and several neighbors found the flier on their doors.
"It's something that seems serious so I didn't want to blow it off. I wanted somebody to look at it."
Flagg said the real problems at the prison aren't communication but the staffing shortage. He said that must be addressed through the budget process by the governor and Legislature, not anonymous fliers.
Scott MacKenzie, of the State of Nevada Employees Union, which organized a recent protest outside NSP over Donat's tougher rules, was unavailable for comment.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.