Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"All Things Considered"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
November 04, 2005
Podcasts

ARCHIVE: Jail Overcrowding

Listen

Sheriff Bill Young and Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid introduced valley residents to the idea of a temporary jail this year to confine people accused of non-violent crimes. They say they need it because of an overcrowding at the downtown detention center. KNPR's Ky Plaskon takes a look at who is in jail.

SOUND: Fremont Street.

PLASKON: A few blocks from the jovial atmosphere on Fremont Street is an equally busy public facility, the Clark County Detention Center, CCDC.

SOUND: People at jail.

SOUND: ID please, do you have an ID?

PLASKON: This building has two towers totaling 12 floors of housing for inmates.

SOUND: Opening door

SOUND: Intercom

PLASKON: Sitting in a dark surveillance room inside the jail is Sergeant Becker. With just one phone call he can find out how full the jail is. Its officially only built for 2,860 beds.

BECKER: Three thousand sixty three. Thank you very much, bye bye. 3063 we hold here.

PLASKON: Room after room at CCDC is at or near capacity.

SOUND: Opening door

PLASKON: They have two TVs where they can watch TV, they can bring a movie.

PLASKON: Each room is dark with one person like Officer Ogis.

OGIS: There are 63. Right now it is free time so they are sitting silently watching TV 64 is our max.

PLASKON: Another area of the jail is a series of cots where officer Doty watches as inmates lie under white sheets and stare at each other silently.

DOTY: What are we looking at here? This is not ideal?

DOTY: No this is not ideal, this means we have too many people and this is where we have to put our overflow people, there are 25 cots, on one side they have 25 cots. So you are looking at about 75 inmates in here.

PLASKON: While the instances of violent crime reported by Metro to the FBI have actually declined between 2002 and 2004 and non-violent crime has stagnated, the jail population has continued to rise. So who's in jail? Sergeant Becker at the CCDC has an example of an extreme mental health case commonly known in the detention center.

BECKER: Finger painters, you don't wanna see that. Those people take their feces and paint the walls, usually those people are serious psychological problems or they have done too many drugs and they don't know what they are doing. But we don't get it too often. Schizophrenia, they are all on medication and they are seeing things.

KINCH: My Name is Linda Kinch and I am an EMT here at the Clark County Detention Center.

PLASKON: She is one of the first persons inmates see.

KINCH: Approximately 80 percent of them, they are anti depressants we have a lot of bi-polar situations, manic depressants, schizophrenia.

PLASKON: The jail is a lot like a hospital with nurses, psychologists, infectious disease quarantine and even a maternity ward. Many of the inmates get medication in jail and once they get that they are fine. That's what people don't understand she says.

KINCH: That criminals are all crazy or all bad and a lot of them misunderstood and a lot of them just need a second chance.

PLASKON: It's a revolving door though she says. When they get out, they don't get the medication and decline into the disabled mental state that got them in trouble in the first place.

SIGEL: The largest mental health facility in the state are the prisons and the jails, that is the choice we make because we don't really give a dam about those people.

PLASKON: Richard Sigel is president of the Nevada ACLU.

SIGEL: And so as a result we overbuilt jails and under built mental health and that is the decision we made.

PLASKON: He says 40-70 percent of people in jail at any given time are technically innocent and that Las Vegas should have a night court like similar sized cities to move accused non-violent criminals out of the overburdened system. While Metro Vice Lieutenant Terry Davis says part of the answer is a new jail, he agrees that people could be moved through the system faster.

DAVIS: It is not just a one-pronged approach, it is not we can just build a bigger jail, expanding the court system, what you are saying is accurate.

PLASKON: Prisons are one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics there are more than 2.1 million people in federal, state and local institutions and the population in jail is rising at 4 percent a year. Terry Davis Metro Vice Lieutenant doesn't like letting them go.

DAVIS: Our jails, our prisons are overcrowded I think it is a sign of the times and it impacts our community when we release violators of the law and it gives them the opportunity to go back into the community and commit crimes again.

PLASKON: In Las Vegas police have changed policies and increased the number of people in jail accused of non-violent crime. According to Metro's office of public affairs, in January 2004 Sheriff Bill Young ordered staff to start holding some people for non-violent crimes. Women suspected of prostitution were to be jailed rather than released as they had been in the past. Arrests for prostitution increased to ten percent of all Metro arrests. This year however, the justice court however ordered the police to release them and Metro's arrests for prostitution has since dropped to its lowest level in two years. Critics like Magdaleno Rose Avila say pumping up jail populations with non-violent criminals like prostitutes is part of a political strategy to build new jails.

AVILA: They say I mange more staff, my salary needs to be boosted. That is really what they want. It is a game. It would be different if the institutions were really changing people but they are not.

PLASKON: And take-home pay is going up. The CCDC's Becker explains what it takes to manage booking and releasing all the accused criminals brought in.

BECKER: I call in the overtime at night. We probably run 100 plus hours just in this tower, not including this tower because we don't have enough staff every single day. Officers want to work overtime there is pretty much as much as you want. Officers are making more than lieutenants because they are working so much overtime.

PLASKON: Corrections officer salary range is 46 to 70-thousand a year without overtime. The ACLU's Richard Sigel says it's expensive.

SIGEL: We don't have enough money for education; we don't have enough money for health, why do we treat criminal justice for the most miner infractions as if there is all the money in the world? You have had a huge jail-building program. Somebody needs to look at the jail building and is it consistent with the nature and the actual criminal patterns that you have."

PLASKON: Not all of the Metro staff agrees that they need a new jail like one officer who declined to be identified.

OFFICER: This is a large building; there is always space here.

PLASKON: But County Commissioner Rory Reid calls building a new jail a quality of life issue.

REID: We can't do a sting operation on the strip to address the prostitution problem. We can't do something aggressive with serial graffiti perpetrators because we have no place to put them.

PLASKON: Metro still does stings however on non-violent criminals. For instance two months ago some 60 teen-aged and young adult drag racers were arrested and brought to jail. They were subsequently released and that sends the wrong message to the criminals that could be reformed Reid says. A bigger jail could serve as a community resource too.

REID: It's not just the jail it creates opportunities for us to use these people as a labor force to remediate the crimes they have created. But we can't do that right now because the jail is full of the worse criminals and we don't want work crews from that population. This would create a population of people that can be reformed and solve some of the communities problems."

PLASKON: Reid says the county is at least 120 days from hearing a proposal that could do that. Last week the Whitney Town Advisory board heard public comment on Metro's proposal: Erect a 400-bed tent at a sewage treatment plant to incarcerate accused non-violent criminals.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

See discussion rules.

Archives

Apr 4, 2009 | Drug Donation Program
Nevada lawmakers are debating the creation of a program that would help cancer patients get expensive prescription drugs for less.

Mar 13, 2009 | Budget Wrangling
As state lawmakers wrestle with Nevada's multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, there are several plans afoot aimed at softening the next economic bust.

Mar 2, 2009 | Autism
The cost of treating children with autism can be $24,000 to $40,000 per child per year according to the Autism Coalition of Nevada. A bill before the Nevada Legislature aims to help families pay for the care.

Feb 16, 2007 | Chinese New Year
This weekend marks a celebration of Chinese New Year. KNPR's Rick Andrews reports on how the holiday is being celebrated by the valley's growing Asian community.

Dec 7, 2006 | Food and Beverage
The economy of scale for food and beverage operations in Las Vegas means any edge in efficiency is real money. Rick Andrews reports on a software product scoring with food and beverage managers looking at the bottom line...and what you're likely to order.

Nov 15, 2006 | Global Gaming Expo
The Global Gaming Expo trade show and conference got underway Tuesday in Las Vegas. Vendors showcase their latest wares including new slot machines.

Nov 1, 2006 | Stardust Memories
When it opened in 1958 the Stardust was the world's largest hotel. Now, after more than 48 years, it's closed.

Sep 27, 2006 | Nevada Northern Railway
The 'Nevada Northern' is celebrating its centenial anniversary. News 88.9's Rick Andrews went on a tour of the museum with executive director Mark Bassett.

Jun 30, 2006 | Standing Up for Ringo
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley tells the story of how she saw the Beatles in Las Vegas in August 1964.

Jun 29, 2006 | Sports Supplements
From fortified cereals to energy drinks to serious sports nutrition, people are willing to spend lots money to supplement their diets. Rick Andrews reports on the business of sports supplements.

May 25, 2006 | Love
Wednesday Cirque du Soleil provided a glimpse of their much anticipated show based on the music of the Beatles. Flo Rogers reports on Love.

May 24, 2006 | Telecommunications
A Senate telecommunications bill currently being considered includes provisions on most everything, but some worry that controversial measures will derail the entire package.

May 16, 2006 | Nanotech
Universities across the country are spending millions to expand nano technology research...manipulating molecules 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. Rick Andrews reports on nano research at UNLV.

Apr 24, 2006 | Earthscope
Hualapai Mountain Park, near Kingman, has been chosen by the National Science Foundation to be home to a seismic monitoring station. Gillian Ferris Kohl reports.

Apr 18, 2006 | Anatomical Donation for Science
In the second of two reports exploring innovative medical facilities in the Valley, Rick Andrews visits the Medical Education and Research Institute of Nevada in Henderson.

Apr 12, 2006 | Immigration Reform Stalled
Immigration legislation in the U.S. Senate is at a standstill. Many in the Republican Party blame Nevada Democrat, Senator Harry Reid for the impasse. Jill Morrison reports from Capitol Hill.

Apr 1, 2006 | New Plans for Nellis
The first of April brings news that a large piece of military land in Las Vegas may be redeveloped.

Mar 28, 2006 | Test Site Worker Compensation
Senator Harry Reid is trying to get compensation for Test Site workers who were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, but never compensated.

Feb 27, 2006 | StoryCorps - Alice Keys
Alice Keys has been active in the African American community for decades and known through her association with the Moulin Rouge Casino. Here's her recollection of meeting one of the great African Americans of the last century.

Feb 21, 2006 | StoryCorps - Alan Morel and Mike Genoshe
When close friends interview each other, the stories are often more intimate and revealing than talking to a reporter. A case in point is Alan Morel and Mike Genoshe talking about their hopes for their adopted son.

© 2014 NEVADA PUBLIC RADIO   
Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.