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Jim Dzurenda resigns as corrections chief in Nevada

CARSON CITY — The director of Nevada’s Department of Corrections is resigning after three years in the post, the governor’s office announced Friday.

The date of Jim Dzurenda’s departure has not been finalized, the office said. Gov. Steve Sisolak said he would conduct a state- and nationwide search for his replacement.

“I appreciate all that Jim has done for the state of Nevada, including his robust efforts to begin reforming Nevada’s correctional institutions,” Sisolak said in a statement. “I thank him for his years of public service in state government and wish him and his family the best of luck.”

The governor’s office said Dzurenda was resigning to “pursue new opportunities and to be able to spend more time with his family and children in Southern Nevada.”

In his statement, Dzurenda said the department under Sisolak had “made significant reforms to the criminal justice and correctional systems.”

“Although there is more to be done, I have great confidence that Gov. Sisolak will establish Nevada as a model for its fair and reformative correctional programs,” he added.

Dzurenda was appointed director of the Nevada Department of Corrections by Sisolak’s predecessor, Republican Brian Sandoval, in April 2016. He came from New York City, where as first deputy commissioner of the corrections department he managed nine jail facilities with 14,000 staff members and 9,000 inmates. He began his career in corrections in Connecticut, rising to become state commissioner in charge of 18 facilities, 19,000 inmates, 7,000 staff members and a budget of more than $350 million.

He appointment came after his predecessor in Nevada resigned at Sandoval’s request following several shootings at state prisons. A subsequent outside review of the department’s use of force cited low staffing levels and recommended ending use of less-lethal methods to control inmates, such as pepper spray.

Dzurenda himself faced criticism last September when it was disclosed that he disregarded requests from three drug manufacturers who did not want their medications used in prisoner executions. The disclosure came during testimony in a lawsuit challenging the “cocktail” of drugs the state used for capital punishment.

The lawsuit interfered with the state’s planned execution of condemned Nevada inmate Scott Dozier. Dozier, who waived his appeals and wanted to state to carry out his sentence, killed himself in prison in January.

The most recent execution in Nevada occurred in 2006.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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