By Kelsey Givens
The county’s new jail is officially open for business and already new arrests are being processed there.
Deputies began transferring inmates into the new facility from the cramped quarters of the outdated one a few yards away on Thursday afternoon.
Assistant Sheriff Rick Marshall said everyone from the deputies, to the detention staff, to the administration and even the inmates seemed excited about moving into the new building.
“I think it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I know the ACLU has contacted us and they want to come up and take a look at it, because they were behind getting the new jail and they’re very pleased with what they’ve heard and what they’ve seen in the paper so far. I think it’s just a win-win for everybody.”
One inmate worker even expressed how happy he was to be working in a larger, more efficient kitchen in the new facility.
“It’s great,” he said.
The decision to begin filling the new jail came on the heels of a District Court judge’s ruling earlier in the day denying a motion filed by the Nye County Law Enforcement Association, which sought a temporary restraining order against the sheriff’s office from opening the facility. The union argued that subpar staffing levels at the new facility would pose a hazard to deputies and inmates alike.
District Court Judge Robert Lane said his reason for denying the motion was he felt NCLEA and their attorney hadn’t shown enough evidence to prove that the current levels would be a threat.
“I may be able to use common sense to make that decision that 30 people in one room is dangerous for one jailer and so forth, that’s not the point. The point is they say you haven’t met any kind of burden to show that any such danger exists to issue a protective order on until the grievance process has run its course,” Lane said.
NCLEA President Det. David Boruchowitz made clear he did not agree with the ruling, saying afterward he thought it was an abomination that it might take someone getting hurt before they could do anything about the staffing levels in the 224-bed facility.
“Obviously, we were disappointed because we don’t want to see one of ourmembers get killed. You know we anticipated the district attorney’s arguments; unfortunately we stand strongly behind the fact that we don’t believe we should have to wait until someone dies or gets hurt to then decide it’s an important enough issue to be heard. And our contract clearly says the county will provide a safe place to work in. Putting one deputy in that facility is unacceptable in our mind,” he said. “He the sheriff already told us he is going to staff it with one deputy, so the façade in court that it’s an unknown, unless he’s changed his mind as of last week, he intends on moving the inmates from Tonopah to Pahrump, so the minute that happens we’ll be back in court asking for another one. And we know it’s always a toss-up with what the judge does, but we just don’t think that we can stand by and let somebody get killed and then go, ‘oh now we’ll be concerned about staffing levels.’”
Marshall and Sheriff Tony DeMeo on the other hand said they agreed with the judge’s decision after the hearing, adding that the new jail is actually safer for all parties involved.
“I think that it went down really well; I like the judge’s decision. I think our counsel presented a clear and convincing argument and I think that to entertain any notion that a deputy would run into a cell where’s there’s 30 unrestrained prisoners is ludicrous. They’re not going to do that. They’re not trained that way and we always take appropriate steps for the safety of all of our personnel,” Marshall said.
“The issue we have is we don’t have the ability down here to isolate inmates that do not want to be part of any incident of us going in there and breaking up a fight. This jail gives us the opportunity to get away from the incident and lock them down and then deal with those individuals that continue to want to cause issues in the new jail,” DeMeo added.
Several hours after winning their fight in court, the sheriff’s office began to move its first prisoners into the new jail.
Though NCLEA does not agree on the current staffing levels, the move went ahead full-force, beginning with the female inmates.
“We’re phasing them in. We’re bringing six prisoners at a time. They’ll come in, they will get showered, a complete change-out of clothing, new bedding and then they’ll be put into the cells,” Marshall said.
And once the current Pahrump inmates are all situated and the classification system is up and running, inmates will receive new uniforms, which are color coded by classification.
“Right now they’ll have the same ones, but eventually when we get our classification system up and running, they’ll have different jumpsuits. They’ll be different colors once we get the classification system up and running. If somebody has an escape risk on their record, or high potential for violence, they’ll have a different color than the general population,” Marshall said.
Though he couldn’t say exactly how many deputies would be on duty at any given time in the facility for safety reasons, Marshall did add that NCSO takes safety very seriously and will continue to work to make sure both inmate and deputy alike are safe.
“We take security here very seriously. We take safety of the inmates and safety of our personnel very seriously. The new jail is about as technologically advanced as you can get, other than having robots in here and I think that our deputies are just ecstatic that it’s opening,” he said. “I was just over at the old jail helping supervise the females being transferred over and every one of the deputies over there shook my hand and said ‘thank you, it’s about time, we need this opened.’ So that’s a good feeling and just opening up this facility, it’s a great feeling. And we’re stewards of the taxpayers’ money, we can’t just let it sit empty. We prepared for every contingency and we hope for the best.”
Phasing in the current Pahrump inmate population was scheduled to finish Thursday evening.
Visitation schedules have not been officially decided upon, but Marshall said he hopes to have visitation open by no later than Monday for those wishing to see their inmate family members.