Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2014

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Summit View juvenile prison closure brings questions

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CARSON CITY – If the Legislature approves Gov. Jim Gibbons’ plan to close the Summit View Youth Correctional Center near Nellis Air Force Base, the state will still have to pay off a $1.2 million mortgage for an empty building.

Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, said the closure of the 96-bed facility would save $3.5 million over the next two years.

Willden said the high-security inmates would be transferred to youth reformatories in Elko and Caliente.

But Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, questioned why the shifting of these inmates took place before the Legislature had a chance to look for alternatives.

Willden told Horsford he was told to start saving money. He conceded he still would need approval from the Legislative Interim Finance Committee to hire more staff at Elko and Caliente.

Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said the state would still be on the hook to pay off the $1.2 million in bonds with an empty facility.

The state has until 2017 to pay off the bonds. Willden said attempts are being made to find somebody to lease the prison and possibly bring in youth from other states. He said this could be a “revenue opportunity” for the state.

Summit View was built for 96 offenders but the cost is higher per inmate than the other two reformatories. Willden called it a “prison for youth” with cells and razor wire fencing. Elko and Caliente are more of a “domestic cottage flavor,” he said.

It was opened in 2000 but Willden said he closed it from March 2002 to January 2004.

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