Nevada State Prison may close |

Nevada State Prison may close

Associated Press

Nevada State Prison, which dates to the 1860s, may close as a result of the state’s current budget crisis ” a move that would save $19 million a year in operating costs.

State prisons chief Howard Skolnik said Wednesday that under a “what if” scenario prepared for Gov. Jim Gibbons, budget cuts of up to 4 percent would result in the old prison on the east side of Carson City shutting down by next January.

Skolnik said that if deeper cuts are mandated during state lawmakers’ special session, opening Monday in efforts to deal with a $1 billion shortfall, the prison would close even sooner.

“The closure of NSP is on the block as a consideration depending on the final numbers,” Skolnik said. “We can’t meet the (4 percent) reduction we are being requested to make without closure of a significant facility, and right now, based on the numbers, NSP fills the bill.”

The prison, which now houses about 1,000 inmates and has a staff of about 200 guards, also houses the state’s execution chamber.

The shutdown plan follows moneysaving decisions to close a state prison at Jean in southern Nevada and to close a women’s prison facility at Silver Springs in northern Nevada. Both of those facilities are scheduled to shut down July 1. The state is hoping to lease out the Jean facility to generate revenue.

Skolnik said he is advising NSP employees of the possible need to close their prison and will try to ensure that they have transfer opportunities to other prisons.

The director also said that because of a high parole rate and expansion of a prison in southern Nevada he’s “reasonably comfortable” that the inmate population at NSP could be absorbed at other prisons.

A newly approved prison near Las Vegas should be completed in about two years and will include an execution area. The execution chamber at NSP could still be used even if the prison is closed if a death row inmate gets a lethal injection prior to completion of the new prison, Skolnik said.