Vol. 5, No. 21 September 1, 2008
Nevada's Online State News Journal-- Serving Informed Nevadans Since 2003
Top News Story:
Pahrump May Host
Large Federal Prison
To Be Run By Large
A 1,000 bed federal prison is in the works for Pahrump, Nye County’s largest town according to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private corrections provider in the country. According to the Wikipedia web site, CCA is the fifth largest prison system in the U.S. behind only three states and the federal government. CCA manages 69,000 beds in 64 facilities and owns 40 facilities.
While there is some opposition to the planned facility, based primarily on safety issues, many are looking at the economics of a federal prison in the community. CCA pays its corrections officers $25 an hour, which would be a boon to many businesses in the area, and property taxes would be in the neighborhood of about $800,000. The prison could be receiving inmates by late 2009, and by 2010 for certain according to the CCA Pahrump web site, http://www.correctionscorp.com/nevada/. The wage that will be offered to correctional personnel is based on the federal prevailing wage program. At this time, it is $23.80 and is expected to be $25 by the time the facility is open.
The Department of Justice, Office of Federal Detention Trustee contracted with CCA on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service to build and operate the Pahrump federal facility. According to prison officials, most federal prison inmates are in on drug related charges, and they say, the facility has an almost “Star Wars” security system. The prison will be located on Mesquite Avenue in Pahrump.
CCA has not always had the best reputation in the prison industry. They operate the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, which is primarily used for holding illegal immigrants who are awaiting deportation. The facility was a maximum prison at one time and there have been reports that children of the immigrant families are being treated as if they were serious felons. For a long time, there were no school, recreation, or other facilities available for the children.
It has also been reported that many of the children that are housed at the maximum detention facility are citizens having been born in this country. The contract for the T. Don Hutto facility is through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of Homeland Security. Reports from Washington and Pahrump indicate that the Pahrump facility may also be used for this pass-through type arrangement in which illegal immigrants are held in federal prisons on their way back to their home countries.
The prison facility is expected to cost about $80 million. CCA incorporated in January of 1983 and is considered the largest private corrections company in the country. According to the company’s Pahrump web site, “Our relationship with the residents and businesses in Nye County and the surrounding area is very important to us. We take pride in being a solid community partner, both financially and through our involvement in the community,” said Louise Grant, CCA vice president of marketing and communications. The correct name for the facility is Nevada Southern Detention Center and will have about 230 employees, most coming from the local area, the company says.
Pahrump and the general area of southern Nye County and northern Clark County are in the middle of desert tortoise country, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to give its approval to the federal prison project, either by the end of August or early September. Early fall has been the target date for construction to begin.
CCA has been promoting itself as a strong member of the local community and Louise Grant has been holding town meetings to discuss the prison for some time. There have been complaints that the prison project was slipped in under the radar, but public hearings have been held regularly during the past year. The CCA contract with the U.S. Marshals Service will run for five years with opportunity for renewal.
CCA has said that none of the prisoners will be released in Pahrump following their time in prison and will be transported by CCA to their original home areas. With a federal prison just a few miles north of Las Vegas, often referred to as Sin City, what happens in Las Vegas may not stay there, it may stay in Pahrump.