Master plan outlines major prison construction needs
The state Public Works Board was briefed this week on a master plan for the Department of Corrections that would require upward of $300 million in new construction over the four legislative sessions.
The new and expanded prison facilities are necessary, according to consultants Arrington Watkins Architects, to increase total capacity by 984 beds.
Prison officials told the Board of Examiners in June the inmate population is already nearly 700 higher than projections used to build the current budget and there are still 10 months to go in this budget cycle. All the department’s institutions are near capacity.
Consultants told the Public Works Board this week the male inmate population was 12,440 as of the end of April and still growing. Meanwhile, the much smaller female population was also significantly ahead of projections, growing by 170 to 955 over the past couple of years.
Because the number of inmates is so far ahead of projections, prison officials went to Board of Examiners and the Interim Finance Committee this summer to get $1.25 million added to the budget.
That included $542,287 to open and staff another wing at the women’s prison in North Las Vegas and $708,645 to beef up the prison medical budget.
That added staffing would roll forward into future budgets and is on top of the 100 additional correctional officer positions approved by the 2015 Legislature.
Consulting team members presented Public Works with three alternatives for the capital construction program ranging from $242.8 million over the coming budget cycles to $316.8 million to add those 984 beds.
The least expensive option, they said, would still leave the state “behind the curve related to building support space for the future.” It would cost the state $55.2 million tis coming legislative/budget cycle to expand capacity at Southern Desert and Warm Springs prisons.
Option two is much more aggressive, calling for major construction of Prison 8 that would cost $308.6 million over the period, $123 million in the 2017-2018 budget alone.
They recommended a plan that would combine the two to spread the fiscal pain over a longer period. It would cost $316.8 million overall but just $55.2 million in the first budget cycle. However, they said that plan would not only put the state ahead of bed space needs, but provide more core facilities to support expansion beyond 2023.
Those options have nothing to do with the numerous maintenance, repair and upgrade needs within the department. The total package presented to the Public Works Board consists of 162 different projects ranging from new locks and security controls to video cameras to kitchen equipment, roof and HVAC work.
Aside from the growing construction needs, Deputy Director Quentin Byrne told the Public Works Board on Thursday their top priority for funding this cycle is a series of ADA improvements at Northern Nevada Correctional Center mandated by the Justice Department.
That project is closely followed by the addition of a nitrate unit at the Humboldt Conservation Camp required under the federal Clean Water Act.