Nevada prisons add tools to avoid shootings, but keep guns

prison bitchNevada prisons have added more guards and trained officers how to use rubber bullets in an effort to end deadly shootings behind bars, officials said Thursday, but they also defended the use of shotguns if all else fails.

The comments came as the Board of State Prison Commissioners followed up on an audit of prison use-of-force policies. The state faces lawsuits over prison shootings, including one at High Desert State Prison in 2014 that left an inmate dead.

“We really believe that the use of (shotguns) will be drastically reduced,” said Nevada Department of Corrections Interim Director E.K. McDaniel, calling birdshot “a last resort in saving people’s lives.”

Nevada commissioned an independent review of its prison policies in May, a few weeks after news broke that an inmate died after being shot. A lawsuit alleges Carlos Manuel Perez Jr. was handcuffed when he was shot and killed Nov. 12, 2014, and accuses prison guards of creating a “gladiator-like scenario” by letting inmates fight before firing into the fray.

It wasn’t widely known that Perez died from gunfire until four months afterward.

“There are issues. That’s why we asked for this report,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in August. “I want to make sure that our Department of Corrections is following the best practices that are current nationally.”

The report, written by the Association of State Correctional Administrators, offers 10 recommendations for Nevada’s prison system, including ramping up staffing, clarifying policies on how to respond to fights among inmates, and training guards on how to use pepper spray.

The report’s authors said the Nevada prison system has the highest ratio of inmates to staff in the country, at 12:1. But McDaniel said the number is about half that when supervisory staff, who aren’t officers, are counted.

Lawmakers approved funding to bring on 100 new employees over the next two years, and McDaniel said the state is now placing its second batch of hires.

The report also recommended corrections officers have batons, pepper spray and handcuffs to defuse fights before a shotgun is necessary.

McDaniel said officers who have close contact with inmates are now equipped with the spray, and guards at all prisons have been trained on how to use rubber bullets.

Nevada prison system announces 2 more inmate deaths

3rd Nevada inmate in a week dies in custody

3rd Nevada inmate in a week dies in custody

An inmate who was denied cataract surgery by the Nevada Department of Corrections and won an appeals court ruling about it died this week, the Nevada Department of Corrections reported Wednesday.

John Colwell, 67, died at High Desert State Prison from what corrections officials called a chronic medical condition. His death was the third inmate death reported in a week by the state.

Colwell was serving multiple life sentences for first-degree murder and kidnapping. He was also serving 15 years each for robbery and the use of a deadly weapon.

While he was in prison, the man’s treating doctors recommended surgery for his cataract problems years ago but the department of correction’s “one eye policy,” which allowed them to deny him treatment because he has a single functional eye.

According to court records, Colwell developed cataracts in both eyes. He had injured himself several times because of this, including running his hand through a sewing machine and splitting open his forehead on aconcrete block.

Colwell had been in the Nevada prison system since 1991.

Contact reporter Annalise Little at alittle@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0391. Find her on Twitter: @annalisemlittle.

The Department of Corrections Administration Building in Carson City was evacuated Wednesday morning after employees discovered a white powder in a piece of mail.

ImageThe Department of Corrections Administration Building was evacuated Wednesday morning after employees discovered a white powder in a piece of mail.

Capitol Police Chief Jerome Tushbant said investigators quickly determined that the powder was not dangerous and not a threat to health or safety.

The case was being investigated by the Capitol Police, which has responsibility for the building, one of several used by state agencies at the Stewart complex along the southern border of Carson City.

Corrections spokesman Brian Connett said the building was evacuated as a precaution.

Tushbant said investigators are working to confirm the identity of the person who sent the white powder.

“It’s non-hazardous,” he said.

He declined to give further details, saying the case is under investigation.

Are Nevada State Employees Being Bullied?

RGJ Opnion

RGJ Opinion “Letter to Editor”

opinion shopThe Governor’s Office would have you believe that a joint task force between the Department of Public Safety – Division of Parole and Probation, and the Department of Corrections are working together to integrate Parole functions into the NDOC. Wrong! The task force is comprised of a select few command staff, who were blindsided and ordered to facilitate this proposed transition without opposition, despite high costs and lack of practicality.

Is the Division of Parole and Probation command staff being politically bullied to support the Governor’s proposal to transfer the Parole functions over to the Department of Corrections?

Are involved State employees being “frowned upon” for exercising their First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, in an effort to avoid embarrassing the Governor’s Office? Continue reading