CARSON CITY — The 500-bed Southern Nevada Correctional Center in Jean will be closed in July as part of the governor’s plan to cut prison spending by $25 million, the prisons director said Monday.
In addition, the department will not construct a 100-bed transitional housing addition to the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in Las Vegas, which will save $6.5 million.
“I am pleased we are making the cuts without any job losses and with a minimum of relocation of inmates away from their families,” Corrections Director Howard Skolnik said Monday.
Because of flight delays, he could not attend a Friday meeting at which Gov. Jim Gibbons announced his plan to cut state spending by $517 million over the next 18 months.
All state agencies were asked to cut their budgets by 4.5 percent. About $200 million of the money needed to cover a state revenue shortfall will come from the state’s rainy day fund when the Legislature goes into session next year.
Skolnik said closing the Jean prison in July is doable because the overall prison population has remained stable at slightly more than 13,000 inmates for six months.
A law that could lead to the early release of 1,000 non-violent inmates soon will be implemented, he said.
The closure of the Jean prison will save the state $11.5 million. The facility also was closed between 2000 and 2006.
The prison will be maintained and reopened when additional cells are needed. Because it is the smallest prison in Southern Nevada, Skolnik said, it is easier for the department to close it now and reopen it when additional space is needed.
Inmates in the Jean prison will be transferred to other prisons in Indian Springs, about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, as will more than 100 staff members.
The transition center for women is not needed now, according to Skolnik, because there are spaces for 50 women at the Casa Grande transition center in Las Vegas. Most remain open.
Although the women’s prison in North Las Vegas is severely overcrowded, he said, a 200-bed addition will open in February. Another 300-bed addition should open next year.
The prisons system also will save $1.6 million by closing the medical unit at the Jean prison and transferring staff members to other Southern Nevada prisons.
Another $1 million a year will be saved by not filling 26 correctional officer positions at the Ely State Prison. Skolnik said most of those jobs have been vacant since 1989 because of difficulties in finding people who want to move to Ely.
Although the Jean prison is being mothballed for now, Skolnik said a $300 million construction program to add 2,400 cells continues as scheduled. Legislators approved the expenditure in June after hearing reports that the state prison population could climb by 8,000 inmates over the next 10 years.
Total cost of providing cells for the increase were estimated at $1.9 billion.
Skolnik said the need for future prisons will be reassessed because of early release legislation and the stabilization of the inmate population.
Contact Review-Journal Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or (775) 687-3901.