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October 16, 2018

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Nevada State Prison could be closed to save money

Howard Skolnik

Howard Skolnik

CARSON CITY — The Nevada State Prison, one of the oldest prisons in the United States, may be a casualty in the upcoming budget cuts.

Howard Skolnik, director of the state Department of Corrections, has notified prison employees that the prison in Carson City may be closed. But it will be up to the Legislature to decide what reductions to make to fill an $880 million hole in the state budget.

There are 187 employees at the prison, which was established in 1862 when the Nevada Legislature purchased the Warm Springs Hotel and 20 acres for $80,000.

Abraham Curry, who sold the hotel to the state, was the first warden.

Until the prison in Ely opened in 1989, it was the maximum security prison where high-security inmates were housed.

It is still the state’s site for executions. The last execution by lethal injection was in April 2006.

According to a history of the prison, all license plates issued by the state have been manufactured at the prison since 1928.

When Nevada legalized gaming in 1932, the prison allowed a “bull pen” to permit inmates to gamble at a make-shift casino. The gambling was ceased in 1967.

The 2009 Legislature rejected the recommendation of Gov. Jim Gibbons to close the prison, which has 841 beds. Lawmakers approved a plan to delay construction of new or expanded prisons and continue operation of Nevada State Prison, which has been remodeled and expanded several times.

Daniel Burns, communications director for Gibbons, declined to answer questions earlier this week about whether the governor would recommend closure of any prisons to save money.

Skolnik said the Tonopah Conservation Camp remains temporarily closed while the staff gets training in Las Vegas but will reopen. The director temporarily shut down the camp after an inmate walked away. It was the second such incident since he became director.

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