Finance backs $30M for modular prison beds

Nevada's Senate Finance Committee agreed Monday to use $30.1 million in state surplus funds to jump start construction of prison beds.

The prison system is becoming badly overcrowded, leading to threats of federal lawsuits that could take control of the system away from Nevada's elected officials. Prison officials say they house in excess of 1,000 inmates more than the existing system should.

Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik told the committee SB190 will allow them to get four modular housing units, each capable of housing 240 inmates, built, furnished and in operation before the end of the year.

One of the modular units is slated for the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in South Carson City.

Because of the new constitutional requirement that public education be funded before anything else in the proposed executive budget, the money for the housing units must be committed before June 30.

The committee is expected to vote "do pass" on the measure as soon as staff reviews the language in the bill.

Skolnik told the committee the first unit will be operating this fall at the Southern Nevada women's prison, followed by units at Southern Desert and Northern Nevada correctional centers. The fourth unit will be built at Southern Nevada prison in Jean.

In addition, Senate Finance approved a resolution allowing the public works board to move forward on a reduced contract for Phase 4 of construction at High Desert Prison in Southern Nevada. That project was put in the budget two years ago but stalled after bids came in more than $11 million over the budget.

The resolution allows construction of the prison unit to go forward leaving out some items, including fencing, which the 2007 Legislature can fund before it adjourns.


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