Ways and Means approves emergency prison funding | NevadaAppeal.com

Ways and Means approves emergency prison funding

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Friday approved two bills designed to deal with overcrowding and rising utility and medical costs in Nevada’s prison system.

SB282 is a supplemental appropriation totaling $7.5 million to pay the system’s bills for the rest of this fiscal year. Deputy Director of Corrections Darrel Rexwinkel said the primary cause of the over-run is increased utility costs – especially natural gas – and rising prison medical costs. But he said there were also increases in inmate driven costs because the prison population has grown faster than anticipated when the current budget was built two years ago.

Second, the committee approved, with little discussion, SB190, which provides the initial $826,597 to begin the design, purchase and construction of four modular housing units to provide inmate beds to relieve the worst overcrowding.

Evan Dale, of the Public Works Board, said they intend to sign the contract for those modulars May 18. The money in SB190 is the amount Public Works says can be spent before the end of this fiscal year. The bulk of the money to pay for them, just over $29 million, will be put in the Capital Improvement Projects budget.

He said the first two units at Southern Desert Correctional Center will be up and ready for inmates by January, followed by one unit at the Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center in February and the final unit at Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City in March.

Each housing unit will house 240 inmates.

Both bills are expected to be voted out of the Assembly on Monday and sent to the governor for his signature.

In addition to the cost of the housing units and their furnishings, Rexwinkel said it will cost about $4.5 million over the next two years to staff and operate the housing units. That money will be put into the department’s operating budget.

There are several prison projects in the governor’s proposed budget totaling $301 million and at least one in progress at High Desert Correctional Center in Southern Nevada. Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik testified in earlier hearings the modular units are the fastest way to get new beds in place to relieve crowded conditions while those new prison units are being built.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.