Lawmakers object to closing prison |

Lawmakers object to closing prison

Members of the Interim Finance Committee on Thursday said Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik is closing down Nevada State Prison without their permission.

“It doesn’t make sense to me to close Nevada State Prison and then ask for money to build another prison,” said Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas. “I know you can’t take much more cuts on your budget but we also can’t lose these beds while we figure out where we’re going.”

Skolnik has proposed closing Nevada State Prison, built in the 1870s, to save some $18 million as part of his budget reductions. He has already closed two units down and is scheduled to close a third next month.

The plan has met stiff resistance from prison workers.

One guard told lawmakers that cuts the capacity by 400 beds, which he said makes no sense when every available bed is needed to handle prison crowding.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Reno, said closing it down unit by unit is going around the wishes of the Legislature, which two months ago directed him not to close down until the full Legislature reviews the plan.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, said she is very concerned about the staff at the Nevada State Prison.

“I’m just very very disturbed when I receive so many e-mails from conscientious, long-time folks working out there who have never seen morale lower,” she said.

Deputy Director of Corrections Lori Bagwell said if instructed by lawmakers they would stop moving inmates out of that prison. But, she said, a prison can’t be shut down quickly and Skolnik’s goal has been to move staff slowly or eliminate them by attrition to avoid any layoffs.

Buckley said lawmakers want them to plan.

“We want a plan,” she said. “We don’t want you to implement it.”

She said lawmakers want the prison management to do a better job of communicating their plans to employees.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.