Speaker questions moving execution chamber from Carson City to Ely

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, made clear Friday she has serious issues with the governor’s plan to build a new execution chamber at the Ely State Prison.

“We’re going to take a serious look at it,” she said.

The plan is in the budget for $692,289, which Kirkpatrick said could be better spent on other serious needs.

The proposed budget would convert part of the administration building at Ely State Prison to handle executions by lethal injection, replacing the old gas chamber in the now-closed Nevada State Prison in Carson City.

Director of Corrections Greg Cox said the plan makes sense because Ely is where all Nevada’s death-row inmates are housed. He added that the old chamber at Nevada State Prison isn’t compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and has numerous other issues, including that there is no really separation between families of the inmate and the victim.

The execution chamber, warden’s office, license plate tag plant and book bindery are the only parts of the Nevada State Prison that haven’t been decommissioned.

Because there are no death row inmates expected to expire all their appeals in the coming two years, Kirkpatrick said, spending that much to build a new chamber doesn’t make sense.

The money dedicated to that capital improvement project might be better spent on another capital improvement project or elsewhere in the budget.

With little or not available bonding capacity, the proposed capital improvement plan for the coming two years is pretty much limited to critical maintenance projects, she said.

Cox said that because of the old gas chamber’s issues, he expects litigation if an execution is ordered and scheduled in Carson City.

He also pointed out that 10 of the 11 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court restored the death penalty have involved inmates who canceled their remaining appeals, adding that that could happen again in the next two years.

The project was challenged during a March hearing as well.

“I’m not saying we don’t need it, but I don’t know if today is that time,” said Assembly Majority Leader William Horne.


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