Nevada lawmakers are making another push to ban the state’s use of private prisons after a similar effort in 2017 was vetoed.
Former corrections officer and Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno is sponsoring AB183, which requires Nevada only staff prisons with state employees. It kicks in after five years, and requires the state conduct biannual, in-person inspections in the meantime to ensure private companies are complying with the terms of the state’s contract.
“It’s not much different from the original bill,” Monroe-Moreno said. “I wanted to make sure that we’re doing right as a state for the inmates in our custody but also understanding the needs that the prison has right now as far as housing and population.”
Facing crowded conditions and a major building remodeling project in Nevada prisons, the state sent 200 inmates in 2017 to a private prison in Eloy, Arizona that is operated by the company CoreCivic. Prisons Director James Dzurenda said he chose to ship out inmates who don’t have strong ties to Nevada and those who were the “worst of the worst” — gang leaders and others who were intimidating inmates who wanted to improve their lives.
Dzurenda said the agency plans to bring the inmates back to Nevada in two phases later this year.
Monroe-Moreno said she has received letters directly from inmates being housed in the private prison who had a variety of complaints about the conditions.
“The biggest one is being away from family, access to family,” she said. “One gentleman felt he should not have been in the class of inmates that were moved … Some about the medical treatment, visitation, and time out as far as recreation.”
Most of the inmates housed in Arizona are actually people convicted in the state of Hawaii, which has its own contract with CoreCivic. A Hawaiian inmate reached out to say he didn’t feel he should be housed in such proximity to Nevada inmates, she said.
Monroe-Moreno said she was not entirely satisfied with the amount of information she is getting about how the private prison initiative is going. In testimony for her 2017 private prison ban bill, she argued that private prisons have a perverse incentive to keep inmates behind bars longer rather than rehabilitate them, and supporters of her bill argued that private prison operations are less transparent than when they are under state control.
She said she intended the five-year wait period before the law became effective as a way to accommodate Nevada’s prison remodeling project, but wants to shorten the time frame.
“I didn’t want to put an undue burden and safety concern on the officers working in the jail or the inmates that have to reside in the jail. So that’s why the sunset went on,” she said. “In negotiations, we may lower that because we’re already two years into that original five year [period].”