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CCA celebrates dention center’s 5th anniversary

One common theme on the minds of staff members at the Southern Nevada Detention Facility, was the thought that time flies, especially when you enjoy your work.

It's been five years this month since the facility opened at 2190 East Mesquite Ave.

As such, the facility held a BBQ for staff and invited guests on Wednesday.

Warden Charlotte Collins said she could not ask for a better first five years of operation.

"The five-year anniversary is a total success and we have a lot of interaction with the community and much of the community showed up today, including a lot of volunteers," she said. "Our staff is very excited about all this. I live in Las Vegas but I and the staff make it a point to remain deeply involved in the local community."

Corrections Corporation of America operates the detention facility, one of more than 15,000 across the country.

Kayla Gieni, public information officer, said Wednesday's observance saw various guest speakers and local dignitaries on hand for the event.

"Stephen Carpenter from the United States Marshal Service spoke and we also had Paul Miller, who now works in the community but he used to be an employee here so he is very close to our hearts," she said. "The past five years have been great."

Some of the invited guests included Commissioners Butch Borasky and Dan Schinhofen, who supported the construction of the facility.

Schinhofen recalled the pushback within the community when news of bringing a detention facility to Pahrump sent shock waves around town from residents who vehemently opposed its construction.

The facility also helped to create the formation of local organization Concerned Citizens for a Safe Community, (CCSC).

One of its founding members is Schinhofen's colleague, Commissioner Donna Cox.

The organization claimed the Office of the Federal Detention Trust failed to properly alert the public of the proposal and conspired to hold scoping meetings that maintained an appearance of seeking public comment without actually doing so.

Schinhofen said nothing could be further from the truth.

"There were a multitude of public meetings regarding the detention facility and I personally counted 18," he said. "When it was finally approved the group against it said we snuck it in. It was front page news for so long and if you didn't know about it, I'm sorry, you must have been living in a cave. All of the horror stories have not appeared."

During the public meetings phase, members of CCSC made claims such as the facility did not intend to hire local residents.

That claim was flatly disputed by Schinhofen, with the assistance of hindsight.

He said he knows some of the employees have actually relocated to the Pahrump Valley, while others have always been local residents.

The employees there are buying homes, are purchasing cars and the vast, vast majority actually live within the community," he said. "They have been great community partners and we haven't seen the ghettos spring up around it nor the escapes, because that never happened. I don't know how much worse the downturn in the economy would have been without those 200 jobs and all that money that they bring into the community."

Gieni also addressed the claims and accusations from the CCSC group.

"There was all kinds of pushback within the community regarding this facility before it was built," she said. "I think everyone just needed to be patient and understand that we did not come here to disrupt the community or make the neighborhood a horrible place to live."

Gieni noted that just the opposite occurred after the facility opened.

"I really think when you think about the economy, we help bring in something that was needed in the community," she said. "If you think about the staff and the homes people are buying as well as automobiles, they can see we are doing a lot of good in the community."

Gieni said at present, the facility has more than 200 employees, who were treated to a steak and baked potato meal on Wednesday, along with the guests.

"We are very excited that all of our staff was able to come out and celebrate this occasion with us," she said. "Right now, we roughly have about 208 staff members. The inmate population of course varies but earlier this week the count stood at about 780 inmates. Sometimes the population can increase up to 900 inmates."

Inmates doing time at the facility are not just sitting around all day waiting for their court appearances.

Kim McCullough, a CCA case manager said the inmates regularly receive guidance and counseling at the facility.

"We offer programs to give them a little bit of structure," she said. "We have parenting classes, recovery and motivational classes. The inmates are not just sitting around doing nothing because our goal is to keep them busy and give them some skills."

One such skill McCullough spoke of was what inmates create to break the monotony of life inside a detention center.

The inmates create works of art made from scraps of waste paper from their commissary and other materials lying around.

"It's interesting to watch them because they can do a lot of things creatively with just their fingers," she said. "They tear the paper and fold them to create these great works and it's pretty crazy. You name it, they can do it, including dogs, horses, motorcycles and cars. It's very creative. It's amazing what they can do."

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