New director plans to change Nevada prison system’s failure to address use of force issues

Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 10:36 PM PST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - The Nevada Department of Corrections didn’t address use of force issues that were first identified in 2022, according to state auditors.

10 months after a yearlong state audit found Nevada’s prison system needed major changes to its use of force procedures, NDOC officials have acknowledged that still none of the 16 recommendations meant to improve prison operations have been completed.

The recommendations included implementing new body camera equipment that was already purchased for $200,000, inadequate tracking of use of force incidents and grievances, and not enough training of staff and their use of weapons.

2023 comes with a new leader at the top of the department of corrections. Governor Joe Lombardo tapped former director James Dzurenda to return in the same role with hopes of bringing stability to a department that just in the last five months dealt with a prison break at Southern Desert Correctional Center, followed by the forced resignation of its director, a hunger strike at High Desert State Prison and Warm Springs Correctional Center shut down.

Deputy Director Bill Gittere, who served as interim director before Dzurenda was appointed, told lawmakers recommendations have not been fully implemented because of serious staffing shortages. He said as a result, the department’s focus has been on immediate priorities like prisoner and general public safety.

Dzurenda said one of his main goals during his previous tenure was finding alternatives to the use of force by prison staff and brought up that during his last stint as director he ended the use of birdshot at Nevada prisons. Birdshot is the use of pellets fired out of a shotgun.

Gittere told lawmakers that Dzurenda’s return to the department should help speed up implementation of the use of force recommendations.