Nevada has more than 80 inmates on death row, and it hasn’t put a prisoner to death since 2006. It has no executions scheduled, either.
But state prisons chief Greg Cox asked state lawmakers this week for $800,000 to build a death chamber at Ely State Prison.
Cox, director of the state Department of Corrections, also asked a legislative budget committee on Tuesday for funding to hire 100 more prison guards.
Cox complained the federal government has cut funds for Nevada prisons housing inmates who are in the U.S. illegally, from $3.4 million a year to $1.3 million.
Cox said it makes sense to have executions take place at Ely, where death row inmates are housed about 35 miles west of the Utah line, instead of at the execution chamber at the closed Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Cox acknowledged the old site could still be used.
Gov. Brian Sandoval included the request for a new death chamber in his budget two years ago, but the Legislature rejected it. He is recommending it again.
The governor is seeking $7.6 million to hire 100 additional correctional officers as recommended by a study group of former prison officials. These would be needed to fill the posts of guards when they are on sick leave or on holidays or off for other reasons.
There was a recommendation in 2005-2006 to hire 264 more staff, but no money was allocated, Cox said.
The prison population, currently 12,769 inmates, is expected to grow by as much as 2 percent a year, Cox said. That would put the number of state inmates at more than 13,000 next year.
Cox told the committee that the Southern Nevada Correctional Center at Jean is still closed, but it could be used if the prison population grows faster than predicted. It would cost more than $10 million to reopen, due to deterioration and the transfer of equipment to other prisons, Cox said.
The state currently has seven prisons, nine conservation camps and two transitional housing centers.