Bill would bar Nevada from using private prisons

Thu, Mar 7, 2019 (12:44 p.m.)

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Legislature has again taken up a measure barring the state from contracting with private prisons to house inmates.

There are no private prisons in Nevada, but the state contracts with private prisons in other states to house Nevada inmates.

A bill was presented before the Assembly Committee on Judiciary today that would require state employees to provide “core correctional services.” Services such as food preparation and cleaning would not fall under the bill.

The bill also would not impact federal inmates.

Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said the legislation would take effect in 2022. Until then, a section of the law would let the state contract with private prisons that meet state guidelines and undergo biannual inspections.

Former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar bill backed by Monroe-Moreno in 2017, saying it encroached too much on the authority of the state Department of Corrections.

Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards defended private prisons.

“I guess the question really comes down to, why are we so opposed to using private prisons when they can do sometimes better than our own prisons?” he said. “And when you write the contract well enough, they can actually provide services better, especially when you have cases where it is in the interest of the prisoners to not be in the state.”

But Erika Castro, an organizing manager with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said “a focus on profit rather than reducing recidivism” can lead to cutting corners in other areas at private prisons, such as training and employee pay.

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