While the governor and Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik are still planning to try to close down Nevada State Prison, Skolnik told the Public Works Board on Tuesday one of his key construction requests would make it efficient to keep part of the old prison open.
Skolnik has said shutting down NSP would save more than $18 million a year. He said if a major institution must be closed because of budget problems, NSP " one of the oldest operating prisons in the U.S. " is the least efficient in both energy consumption and the manpower required to manage inmates there.
But he concedes the prison system is in desperate need of inmate beds.
His No. 3 priority on his proposed project list for the coming biennium is $46.9 million to add a new housing unit at Warm Springs Prison a few yards south of the NSP's upper yard. That project would also expand the culinary, laundry and other core facilities at Warm Springs to handle the added inmates " bringing the total population there to more than 800.
But Skolnik told the board at that point it would only require a new fence to make units 6-13 at NSP part of Warm Springs.
He said the reason to close the oldest part of NSP is its age and inefficiency.
Units 6-13, he said, are much newer than those in the old lower yard of NSP, which dates to the 1870s. And each of those units holds 96 inmates, a total of 768.
"We pick up additional space with very little cost," he said.
The more than 200 prison employees at NSP have opposed any attempt to shut the old prison down. Their representatives have complained that would cost those unable or unwilling to transfer to other prisons their jobs, and that it would reduce the number of good, stable jobs in Carson City by 200.
Skolnik said he even has a specific purpose for those units in the upper yard.
"We have a developing gang issue," he said. "What we don't have is a way to separate folks who want to get out. The upper yard would be a gang-free institution."
He said that approach has been tried in other states and "the benefits are huge for this."
Skolnik said separating people who want out of the gangs enables them to make a clean break before returning to society.
"And we're just asking for some additional fence," he said.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.