Las Vegas Sun

June 15, 2019

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State official: Nevada execution chamber unusable

Prison Board told state could not carry out a death penalty at aging facility

CARSON CITY – The execution chamber at the ancient Nevada State Prison in Carson City is unusable and the state could not carry out a death penalty.

Gus Nunez, manager of the state Public Works Board, Tuesday listed numerous violations at the prison including the death chamber which is not ADA accessible.

He told the state Prison Board that an elevator would have to be installed on the outside to carry the public up to see the execution and there were code violations. And the stairs and hand rails leading up to the execution chamber violated the ADA code.

The last execution was in 2006 and Greg Cox, interim director of the state Department of Corrections, said the state could not put an inmate to death because it doesn’t have the drug to do the job and a judge would probably stop the execution because of the code violations.

There are no executions presently scheduled.

It would cost thousands of dollars to correct the deficiencies associated with upgrading the death chamber.

Curtis Brown, a 14-year correctional officer, disputed the testimony of Nunez and said “Executions could be carried out without a problem.

Rebecca Gasca of the ACLU recommended the state impose a moratorium on the death penalty. She said a study should be done on the implications of capital punishment.

A bill is sitting on the desk of the governor of Illinois to abolish the death penalty, she said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has recommended in his budget to the Legislature to close the prison at a savings of $16 million in the next two years. The inmates would be transferred to High Desert prison in Southern Nevada where there are two vacant dormitories with 600 beds.

The board, with Sandoval as its chairman, did not take a position on closure of the prison. Secretary of State Ross Miller said that should be left up to the Legislature and the governor. Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, the third board member, was absent from the meeting.

Cox said he has urged the Legislature to make a quick decision on the closure of the prison. It costs the state $700,000 for every month there is a delay. He said he would probably have to lay off 30-40 correctional officers instead of the initial estimate of 130 losing their jobs.

The correctional officers could be transferred to other prisons.

The board imposed a hiring freeze on the prison to allow flexibility of Cox to move correctional officers around when jobs become vacant.

Cox is proposing a phased-down closure with it being fully shut down on Oct. 31 which is Nevada Day.

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