Prison closure possible by '09 Legislature

Possible closure of the old Nevada State Prison will be on the table at the 2009 Legislature if the Department of Corrections must cut 14 percent out of its upcoming 2009-11 budget, a new report states.

The report on the prison, which dates to the 1860s and is one of the oldest in the West, went to the state Prison Board, which meets Aug. 12. The shutdown would save $19 million a year but would eliminate about 200 jobs in the Carson City area.

The report also says closure of two minimum-security conservation camps in the first year of the state's next two-year budget cycle would save nearly $3 million a year; and the closure of another two camps in the second year would save $3.3 million.

Corrections Director Howard Skolnik said in the report to the Prison Board, chaired by Gov. Jim Gibbons, that he anticipates the facilities could be closed without requiring the early release of any inmates.

The agency also expects to collect $4.6 million a year by leasing the Southern Nevada Correctional Center in Jean, which was closed on July 1 to meet spending reduction targets in the current budget.

Skolnik had previously brought up closure of the 1,000-inmate Nevada State Prison in the current two-year budget cycle, which runs through mid-2009. While he later said that a shutdown wouldn't be necessary now, it remained a possibility.

Gibbons is projecting a revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion in the next two-year budget cycle. While some uptick in tax revenue may occur, the revenue increases would be eaten up by rising public school enrollments, higher caseloads for Medicare and other social programs and higher wages for government employees.

To prepare, Gibbons has asked departments to find ways to cut 14 percent from the budget the Legislature approved in 2007. Those cuts would reduce spending by about $800 million in fiscal 2009-2011 - still at least $200 million shy of the projected shortfall.


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