Greg Cox, head of the corrections department, said positions at other prisons where inmates will be moved have been left vacant until the state prison closes in April. But paying for NSP staff has come at the expense of other facilities.
The money to retain staff at NSP has come from those other prisons, which also must pay overtime for officers to cover shifts at NSP until those positions are no longer needed. “We keep looking at our overtime and it keeps ballooning out,” Cox told the board chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The 2011 Legislature agreed to shutter the prison, parts of which date to the 1860s, to save money. The Republican governor wanted it closed by October, a move he said would save about $17 million over the two-year budget cycle, but state lawmakers extended the deadline by six months to allow time for staff to find other jobs in Carson City.
Correctional officials have been moving inmates over the last few months, but about 140 still remain, supervised by 73 staff. Early this year, about 700 inmates were at NSP, and Cox said his agency hoped to have all the inmates moved by Jan. 9.
Cox said 18 positions budgeted at High Desert State Prison near Las Vegas are currently working at NSP. “These 18 are being paid from High Desert but they don’t work there,” he said.
Cox said the $2.5 million in overtime are for the first three months of the fiscal year that began July 1. The agency will assess cumulative costs at the end of the second quarter.
After the meeting, Cox said his budget excluded any overtime provisions and his agency will have to ask the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee for funding. Besides staffing, Cox said utility costs at NSP are running $100,000 over projections.
Even when the prison officially closes in April, there will be ongoing maintenance costs as the building is decommissioned, he said. The state’s license plates are made at the prison, which also houses Nevada’s execution chamber.
Cox said correctional officers from NSP are being moved into other positions as they become available, but added layoffs were not out of the question. He said there are 33 openings at the medium-security prison in Lovelock about 90 miles east of Carson City, but some staff are reluctant to transfer voluntarily.
Under state personnel rules, staff can’t be forced to transfer. Cox said some officers are opting for a possible layoff. By doing so, they would be among the first considered for new vacancies at other prison facilities in the Carson City area when those become available.