Veteran Nevada prisons official Howard Skolnik will take over the Department of Corrections when Glen Whorton retires Feb. 16.
Whorton retired more than a year ago but was brought back to shepherd the department after Jackie Crawford was fired. He announced last year he intended to retire when the new administration took over from Gov. Kenny Guinn but Gov. Jim Gibbons convinced him to stay on for an extra month and a half until he could select a qualified replacement.
Whorton returns to his retirement Feb. 16.
Skolnik has 42 years experience in corrections, 20 years with the Nevada prison system. He has been deputy director for industrial programs at the prison system since 1987. He has also served as warden at Southern Desert Correctional Center.
Gibbons said Skolnik "is the right person for the job."
He said Skolnik has "an excellent track record within his profession and within his community."
Before moving to Las Vegas 20 years ago, Skolnik worked at the Illinois Department of Corrections in various positions. He holds a master's degree from the University of Illinois.
Skolnik has run the prison industry program for 20 years, expanding the jobs available beyond the traditional license plate making to enterprises including office furniture construction, auto repair and restoration, custom motorcycle building, mattress making and clothing manufacture - focusing on inmate work garments. Called Silver State Industries, the programs are all self supporting and, in the last fiscal year, returned more than $400,000 to the state.
He also has a history of community involvement.
Skolnik takes over as the department heads into an eight-year building program which, if approved, will cost more than $1.9 billion - the first $300 million in the next two years alone.
The growth is necessary to accommodate an inmate population which is increasing at more than double the rate predicted.
The women's population is the biggest problem, increasing at double-digit percentages for the past four years. The most expensive project seeking funding from the 2007 Legislature is doubling the capacity of the women's prison.
"Our inmate population continues to grow, and to keep up, we're heading into the largest period of construction we've ever seen in Nevada," said Skolnik in a release from the governor's office. "I'm committed to improving our operations while relying on our existing resources by increasing accountability and realigning reporting structures."
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.