Inmate at private Nevada prison pregnant, guard placed on leave

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- The state has stepped up its monitoring of the privately run Southern Nevada Women's Correctional Center in North Las Vegas after an inmate became pregnant and named a guard as the father.

Howard Skolnik, assistant director of the Nevada Department of Corrections, said Corrections Corp. of America, based in Nashville, Tenn., has placed the guard on administrative leave, and prison officials are investigating to see whether criminal charges should be filed. It's a felony for a guard to have sexual relations with an inmate even if it's consensual.

"We believe it was consensual," said Skolnik. "If the individual accused of doing this did this, it was a very foolish and unwise thing to do that will have very bad consequences."

But the woman's attorney, Scott Olifant, said he doubted the sex was consensual.

"It is impossible for an inmate to participate in an act of this nature on a truly consensual basis," he said. "The state of Nevada has recognized this and made it a felony."

The state was told of the case last week by CCA, which has a contract with the state to run the prison. The inmate has been transferred to the prison system's regional medical center in Carson City, where she'll probably have the child.

The woman, who wasn't named, had been at the prison in North Las Vegas since February 2001, serving a term of two to 10 years for robbery.

The state attorney general's office is examining the contract with CCA to determine if any provision has been violated and what penalties could be imposed against the private company.

A CCA spokesman refused to comment publicly about the case, other than to say officials are cooperating with investigators and that thorough criminal background checks were conducted on all 78 of the prison's corrections officers.

It's the first significant problem the state has had at the facility, Skolnik said. Because of the incident, the state has added one monitor in addition to the present one, to see that the private corporation lives up to the terms of the contract.

The last time there was a pregnancy in the prison system was in 1975, Skolnik said.

Corrections Corp. designed, built and has operated the prison since its opening in 1997. It's the only prison in Nevada that is run by a private firm. There are 430 inmates housed at the prison.

Olifant, who plans to sue Corrections Corp., said the case may change the way Nevada incarcerates women.

"I would not be surprised if this incident and any other issues to which this investigation leads gives the state of Nevada reason to reconsider the future of private prisons in this state," he said.


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