Once again, officials look at closing state prison

Heidi Gansert, chief of staff to Gov. Brian Sandoval, said Thursday the idea of closing Nevada State Prison is again being looked at as a way of saving money.

Lawmakers and Democrats on the Board of Examiners have several times refused to close the 100-year-old prison on Fifth Street even though corrections officials say it could save about $12 million a year.

"We have been looking at ways to phase it down," she said during a press briefing.

But Gansert and Senior Policy Adviser Dale Erquiaga said no decisions have been finalized yet and the answers won't be revealed until the State of the State address Jan. 24.

The prison, originally opened in the 1800s, is the state's least efficient, requiring more staff per inmate than any other institution in Nevada. But workers there have fought to keep it open, winning support from city officials who point to the 170 full-time correctional jobs there and their impact on Carson City's economy.

Erquiaga also made the point at the briefing that a series of nine bills pre-filed by the Gibbons administration before they left office are not necessarily supported by Sandoval's administration.

"We are looking at all of them," he said.

One of the bills calling for creation of vouchers for K-12 students to attend other types of schools, he said, will be rewritten.

He said the rewrite will call for a constitutional amendment to permit giving public education money to parochial schools, now prohibited by Nevada's Constitution.

"We think vouchers should cover all schools," he said. "Vouchers are one part of a parental choice program."

Erquiaga said the Gibbons bill to completely repeal Nevada's local government collective bargaining statute will not be supported by Sandoval. He said there will be a bill dealing with changes to collective bargaining but not elimination of the process for local governments and school districts.


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