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October 15, 2018

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Sandoval vetoes proposed ban on private prisons

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Steve Marcus

A corrections officer is shown at the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in North Las Vegas in 2016. The Nevada Department of Corrections selected a private contractor to design, build and operate the facility, which opened in September 1997. The state assumed control of it in 2004.

Updated Wednesday, June 14, 2017 | 12:20 p.m.

A proposed ban on private prisons in Nevada will not move forward after Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto.

Assembly Bill 303 is among more than two dozen measures to be vetoed.

Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas, sponsored the proposed private prison ban, and worked with stakeholders to amend the measure to allow agencies until 2022 to make the transition.

Sandoval cited executive authority in his veto message..

“To the extent that the intent of AB303 is to ensure that Nevada maintains complete control over its prisons and prison population, there is some merit to the bill,” Sandoval said. “But because the bill improperly encroaches on the authority and discretion of the executive branch of state government, including the State Board of Prison Commissioners, I cannot support it.”

He said the bill goes too far by limiting the discretion of the Department of Corrections director to use private prisons when overcrowding or other issues make these facilities necessary. He also cited the high costs of building more facilities.

“Between now and 2022, much can happen, and there is no way to predict whether private prisons may need to play a critical part in Nevada's future prison needs,” Sandoval said.

Monroe-Moreno, a retired corrections officer, said the veto was disappointing but that she’s going to keep pushing for the ban.

Other than a federal facility outside the state’s control, there are no private prisons in Nevada. Overcrowding and segregation requirements for certain inmates can mean that some prisoners are housed in private facilities outside the state. Concerns were raised about how a private prison ban would impact an interstate compact for housing these inmates.

Monroe-Moreno said she wants to reintroduce the bill in 2019 and perhaps make it clear in the new version that Nevada still has the authority to house inmates out of state when needed, such as for law enforcement officers who commit crimes and cannot be housed within the general population.

“That’s a tool that correctional law enforcement needs to have in their toolbox, and that’s something I do not want to take away from our state prison system,” she said. “The next draft of this bill will make that a little bit more clear. I do not want state funds used to house inmates in private facilities in other states, and I definitely do not want private facilities setting up shop within our state.”

This version of the story is updated with comments from Monroe-Moreno.

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