The board overseeing Nevada's prison system voted Tuesday to let the state take over full operation of what has been a privately run women's prison in North Las Vegas.
The Board of Prison Commissioners, chaired by Gov. Kenny Guinn, endorsed the change after state corrections chief Jackie Crawford termed it "the best thing and the right thing for the state of Nevada" - even though costs will go up.
"In the long run, we're saving money," Crawford said in response to questions about the state's estimated operating cost of $8.2 million a year for the 460-inmate prison.
Corrections Corporation of America, which built and has operated the prison since 1997, is pulling out on Sept. 30 at the end of its contract.
Three private companies submitted bids ranging from $6.6 million to $7.2 million a year to operate the prison. They've been identified as Civigenics Inc. of Marlborough, Mass., Cornell Cos. of Houston and Management and Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah.
Crawford said a private operator would be paid on a per-inmate basis, and if the prison population went up by about 60 inmates the state would be shelling out another $1 million anyway.
The board also was told the state would have a better-qualified staff, and the women's prison wouldn't be separate from the rest of Nevada's prison system which isn't privatized.
None of the three private bidders submitted proposals for the medical care of the women inmates. So the state would have take over the health care program even if one of the bids was accepted.
The women's prison has had problems in the past year that included an inmate becoming pregnant. DNA testing showed a guard was the father. Inmates also signed a petition that complained of poor food quality and medical care, among other things.
Guinn and Secretary of State Dean Heller, the two prison board members present at Tuesday's meeting, also endorsed the concept of the Casa Grande prerelease center for inmates approved for parole. The center will be located west of McCarran International Airport, a few miles form the Las Vegas Strip.
Guinn and Heller also met as the state Board of Examiners to approve a lease-purchase deal with a company that will build the center. It should open in June 2005 with an initial population of 200 inmates who will be housed there for four to six months. By 2006 there would be 400 prisoners.
The Molasky Group of Companies has secured the land. The property is surrounded by a light industrial area with warehouse, manufacturing and service businesses - about 1,000 companies where inmates might be hired, Crawford said.
Inmates will go to jobs and return to the center at night, participate in programs designed to ease their transition to the streets, and pay room and board of $14 to $15 per day. Violent inmates and sex offenders can't qualify for the program.
Both the women's prison plan and the prerelease center must also be approved by the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee, which meets June 16.