Inmates Could Be Tracked With GPS

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The prisoners would be required to wear the global positioning devices on their wrists to track their locations at all times. These devices can sound an alarm if the convict enters an off-limits area or tries to escape. An alarm will also sound if an inmate tries to remove the bracelet.

The devices have several other potential uses: In the case of a prison brawl or injury, the devices will show the corrections staff who was in the area when the incident occurred, enabling them to better figure out what happened. If an inmate claims to have been assaulted by a prison guard, there will be a record of whether the inmate was at the correctional officer's post.

"It substantially increases the level of control, without increasing staff," said Howard Skolnik, deputy director of the state corrections department.

Last week, the state Board of Examiners approved a $1.1 million, four-year contract between the state corrections department and Elmo-Tech Inc., of Elmhurst, IL, for the monitoring system. Each transmitter will cost $375. The contract still must be approved by the Legislative Interim Finance Committee on Tuesday.

Skolnik, who is stationed in Las Vegas, also pointed out that the monitoring system would be a "one-time expenditure" as opposed to adding more staff, which creates ongoing operational expenses.

Darrel Rexwinkel, the department's budget director, told the board that the prison system originally sought 173 officers to staff the prison, but the Legislature reduced the figure to 140, while allowing the prison to buy surveillance equipment. He noted that the extra officers requested would have cost the state $2 to $3 million annually, so the surveillance system is a far cheaper alternative.

Gov. Kenny Guinn, chairman of the Board of Examiners, called the system "very efficient."

The Southern Nevada Correctional Center at Jean, 25 miles south of Las Vegas off Interstate 15, has been closed while being redesigned as a 600-bed facility for male convicts 25 or younger. The monitoring system, if approved, will be ready by the time the prison reopens in mid-September.