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September 2, 2014

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Nevada inmate who died six months ago is finally identified

Updated Monday, April 14, 2014 | 8 p.m.

Nearly half a year after an inmate died at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, state corrections officials have made the prisoner’s identity public.

In an email to the Sun today, the Nevada Department of Corrections revealed that the man who died Oct. 21, 2013, was Scott Wilson.

Wilson was 54, according to prison records.

When corrections officials announced the inmate’s death, they said the man had been ill and foul play was not suspected. He had been jailed since April 2009, serving a burglary sentence from Clark County of eight to 20 years, officials said.

The department told the Sun this week the man’s name had been kept from the public while the department tried to locate Wilson’s next of kin. When asked when the department stops looking for next of kin, a spokeswoman said, "We don't give up. We keep trying."

The email to the Sun did not specify that next of kin had been located. A separate email, sent April 14, indicated Wilson's next of kin had been notified.

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said in an interview this week that it was disturbing that the name — a public record — would be kept secret for months.

"They may never find next of kin,” Lichtenstein said. “It's one thing to give them a certain measure of time — to use that is a screen to hide behind when no next of kin may be found is absurd."

The man was one of four inmates who died in October at the prison in Carson City. The ACLU’s Nevada chapter said at the time it was troubled by the cluster of deaths at the prison and the lack of information about them.

The Department of Corrections said 35 of its inmates died in 2013. The 2.9 deaths per month in 2013 was the lowest number this decade for inmates in Nevada prisons.

But during the first three months of 2014, 13 inmates already have died in Nevada prisons — an average of more than four per month. One more inmate has died in April.

Lichtenstein said the inmate deaths were unacceptably high and that the ACLU was monitoring the situation.

"We believe that substandard medical care is rampant throughout the Nevada prison system,” Lichtenstein said. “We get a significant number of complaints about that."

Corrections officials also released to the Sun in an email today a list of all the illnesses the department believes may have “significantly contributed” to the condition of inmates who died in 2013 and 2014: cancer, cardiac, kidney disease, respiratory failure, liver disease, pneumonia, head injury and stroke.

In 2014, 11 of the 14 deceased inmates had some sort of medical condition or illness.

According to the department, illness was not a factor in the deaths of the following inmates: Genaro Martino, 69 — prison officials did not say how he died or where he was found; Paul Skinner, 53, who was found unconscious in his cell, and Daniel Ruiz, 36, who died after an altercation with another inmate.

The concerns over fatalities coincide with a request by the Department of Corrections earlier this month for an additional $2.2 million in contingency funds to cover an unanticipated increase in medical costs.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the department said: “The Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) incarcerates approximately 13,000 inmates. Many of these inmates come to the NDOC with health issues. Just like in the civilian population, some inmates do die. … The NDOC provides medical care for the inmates in the Regional Medical Facility as well as in local hospitals.”

The department's email did not specify if Wilson had undergone an autopsy, but an email sent April 14 indicated an autopsy had been performed.

Autopsies were a point of contention when Wilson died, with the department apparently shirking a state law that requires an autopsy for every inmate who dies in the department’s care.

“Since October 2013, in most cases when an inmate does die, the NDOC requests an autopsy be performed,” the department said in its statement.

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