Unneeded Nevada 'Transition' Prison To Be Built Anyway

The state will build a 100-bed transition center at the Florence McClure Women's Correctional Center in North Las Vegas even though Nevada's prison director told legislators it's not needed.

Corrections Director Howard Skolnik asked the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee on Thursday to delete the transition center and save $4.8 million. But Assembly Democrats on the panel objected to his proposal, part of Gov. Jim Gibbons' plan to cut state spending by more than $540 million.

Because they couldn't agree with Republican senators on the committee, construction will begin on the minimum-security facility, where nonviolent inmates will stay while holding jobs in the community prior to full re-entry into society.

State Public Works Manager Gus Nunez said he needed a decision
from the committee since the contractor has completed site work and
wants to pour concrete for the foundation of the prison expansion.

"We are here to ask you to delete it because it is not needed," Nunez said. "I have to tell the contractor to build it or not to build it."

Democrats did not see it his way. "I cannot imagine we will never need those beds," responded Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, questioned how
the number of inmates who would need a transition center could change so dramatically. She said lawmakers were told legislators nine months ago that 339 female inmates qualified for a transitional center.

Skolnik acknowledged as much. But he said Thursday that the female prison population has "hardened" and that new studies show just 21 of the 1,100 female inmates in the state could be sent to a transition center. At the same time, he said, there are 150 openings available for both men and women inmates at the Casa Grande Transition Center in Las Vegas.

Under Interim Finance Committee rules, a majority of Senate and Assembly members had to agree to stop construction.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)