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Police give up plans for prison

The Metropolitan Police Department is abandoning plans to rent the 600-bed state prison in Jean because of financial constraints and a lack of inmates to fill it.

Police officials were expecting far more inmates this year in the downtown Clark County Detention Center and the 300 additional beds the department contracts out, Deputy Chief Leroy Kirkegard said Thursday.

Instead, the average daily population at the jail has hovered at slightly more than 3,000 inmates this year, down dramatically from the roughly 3,500 of the previous two years. The jail, including the additional beds, has a capacity of 2,957.

“Right now we’re still overcrowded,” Kirkegard said, but not overcrowded enough to merit renting the Jean prison.

The Nevada Department of Corrections plans to close the Southern Nevada Correctional Center in Jean by July, a step that could save the state $25 million. Prisoners and staff will be transferred to other prisons in Southern Nevada.

The department won’t need the prison again until 2014, Corrections Director Howard Skolnik estimated.

In the meantime, the facility will be offered for lease to a private company or a police department for between $4 million and $6 million per year.

“We’ve gotten a couple of inquiries, so we’re fairly confident that we’ll find somebody,” Skolnik said.

The department will start accepting bids next week.

Kirkegard said Las Vegas police didn’t have enough inmates or staff to justify using the prison. The commute between Jean and downtown Las Vegas for court cases was also an issue, he said.

But some people were enthusiastic about the proposal, he said. “A lot of our officers live on the south side of town, and they were looking forward to working down there,” Kirkegard said.

Kirkegard said he didn’t anticipate that the number of inmates would rise dramatically anytime soon. He attributed the drop in inmates to a drop in arrests from “excellent crime initiatives.”

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

 

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