Sandoval ties prisons chief resignation to late report

CARSON CITY — An outside study on use of force at Nevada prisons will be submitted to the Department of Corrections on Monday, a week after Gov. Brian Sandoval asked for the resignation of the agency director for, in part, failing to deliver the report on time.

Sandoval on Tuesday confirmed he asked Greg Cox to resign, citing a need for a “change in leadership.” The governor appointed E.K McDaniel, a department veteran, as interim director. A national search is planned for a permanent replacement.

“There were many different reasons with regard to former director Cox’s resignation, but I do believe that it was the right thing for the department to begin in a different direction,” Sandoval told reporters after a Board of Prison Commissioners meeting.

But there was no doubt the report on use of force was a factor in the governor’s decision.

“Yesterday was the first time I found out that it wasn’t going to be presented today,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval and the Board of Prison Commissioners, which includes Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, asked for the report in May after revelations that correctional officers shot and killed one inmate at High Desert State Prison in November and wounded another. The prison is near Indian Springs, about 40 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Prison officials at the time reported the death of inmate Carlos Manuel Perez, 28, but it wasn’t until four months later when the Clark County coroner ruled his death a homicide that it was revealed he was killed by prison staff. A second inmate, Andrew Arevalo, was injured. Civil lawsuits over the incident have been filed, while the attorney general’s office has yet to decide whether criminal charges are warranted.

Since that shooting, a series of incidents involving force have occurred at other penitentiaries, including Ely State Prison, Lovelock Correctional Center and Warm Spring Correctional Center in Carson City.

The $20,000 use-of-force study was conducted by the Association of State Correctional Administrators. George Camp, co-director of the association and co-author of the report, apologized to the board for the delay. Camp said an initial draft was delivered to the Department of Corrections on Aug. 9. Since then, it has gone back and forth with the department for review and corrections, the last time on Sept. 11.

Camp wouldn’t discuss the findings or recommendations when asked by Sandoval.

He said reviewers visited three prisons — High Desert, Lovelock and Ely — and interviewed staff ranging from line personnel to wardens and administrators. The report focused on the number of incident in which shotguns were fired in 2012-14.

They also looked at rules, regulations and training materials used by the department, Camp said.

McDaniel said the department has already implemented some changes, such as using rounds with rubber pellets before reverting to birdshot to break up fights at some institutions.

Though the final report will be delivered Monday, it could be weeks or months before findings are released to the public because of confidential policies and procedures related to operations.

The prison commission doesn’t meet again until December.

After Tuesday’s meeting Sandoval said he will review the report and discuss it with staff before deciding when it should be released publicly.

“Undoubtedly I think it’s important for the public to have access to the findings of that report,” he said. “I want us to have the best policies and procedures in the country when it comes to use of force in our corrections facilities.

“It affects not only the inmates but it affects the staff,” the governor said. “We have to assure the safety of both of those and balance the interest of both of those.

“Yes, it’s going to be made available to the public,” he said.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

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