Friday, March 13, 2009 | 5:45 p.m.
CARSON CITY – The state Corrections Department will open bids April 6 to see how much money the state could make by leasing out the Southern Nevada Correctional Center in Jean.
The state has been talking with the federal Immigration, Customs and Enforcement Agency about entering into a lease for the prison, and Alaska is interested in the prison too because it is looking for a place to send some of its inmates.
Cornell Companies of Houston, Texas, and GEO Group Inc., of Boca Raton, Fla., went so far as to tour the 600-bed prison, Corrections Director Howard Skolnik told a legislative committee Friday.
Cornell has a contract signed in May 2007 with Arizona to house 2,000 inmates at a prison in Hinton, Okla. GEO Group operates 59,000 detention beds in North America.
Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, said she is "not thrilled" about the prospect of another state or the federal government sending its "worst of the worst" to the prison.
Skolnik told the committee there must be oversight of these operations.
Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, suggested looking into taking the 230 federal inmates from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Most, if not all, of those prisoners are alleged terrorists or enemies of the United States. But Coffin said, "I would not be afraid of them."
Skolnik was reluctant to take them. "We would have to get $100 per prisoner per bed" each day. And he didn't want to mix these types of prisoners with other inmates.
Coffin persisted and said, "Why overlook the possibility?"
The Southern Nevada Correctional opened in January 1978. It was closed in September 2000 for renovation when High Desert State Prison was opened. It was reopened but was closed last July. Prison officials say Southern Desert Correctional Center was the first major state prison in Clark County.
Gov. Jim Gibbons' budget also calls for closure of the Nevada State Prison in Carson City and the Tonopah Conservation Camp.