Nevada State Prison
|This article is outdated. (January 2014)|
1999 aerial photo of the prison
|Location||3301 E. 5th Street
Carson City, Nevada 89702
|Population||219  (as of September 2011)|
|Managed by||Nevada Department of Corrections|
Nevada State Prison (NSP) was a penitentiary located in Carson City. The prison was in continuous operation since its establishment in 1862 and was managed by the Nevada Department of Corrections. It was one of the oldest prisons still operating in the United States- The high security facility housed 219 inmates in September 2011. It was designed to hold 841 inmates and employs a staff of 211.
In the early 20th century, the prison became the sole designated facility for executions by the state of Nevada. It carried out the first death sentence by gas chamber in the United States with the execution of Gee Jon on February 8, 1924. The state of Nevada chose to close the facility for budgetary reasons.
The prison closed its doors on May 18, 2012, with all inmates transferred or released on early out.
The prison was established in 1862 by the Nevada Territorial Legislature at the site of the Warm Springs Hotel, located east of Carson City in Nevada Territory. The legislature had been leasing the hotel from Abraham Curry and using the prison quarry to provide stone material for the Nevada State Capitol. In 1864, the territorial legislature acquired the hotel along with 20 acres (8.1 ha) of land from Curry, who was appointed the first warden of the prison. In October of that year, Nevada became a state and the newly written constitution established that the Lieutenant Governor of Nevada also functioned as the ex-officio warden of the prison. The Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General comprise the board of prison commissioners.
On September 17, 1871, lieutenant governor and warden Frank Denver was seriously injured in a prison break that involved 27 inmates. In 1872, Denver refused to concede the prison to Pressly C. Hyman, who had been appointed the new warden under legislation that repealed that responsibility from the lieutenant governor. Governor Lewis R. Bradley sent troops in March 1873 to force Denver to surrender.
With the legalization of gaming in Nevada, the prison allowed inmates to gamble in the Bull Pen, a casino that was set up in 1932 and closed in 1967.
The prison was expanded in 1964 by the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. The Nevada State Prison operated as a maximum security facility until 1989, when Ely State Prison was opened to fulfill that function.
Prisoners facing capital punishment are held at Ely State Prison but are sent to Nevada State Prison to carry out the death penalty. It became the state-designated facility for all hangings in 1903. In response to Mormon preferences, the Nevada State Legislature passed a statute in 1910 that became effective in January 1911, allowing condemned prisoners to choose between execution by shooting or hanging.
On May 14, 1913, Andriza Mircovich became the first and only inmate in Nevada to be executed by shooting. After warden George W. Cowing was unable to find five men to form a firing squad, a shooting machine was built to carry out Mircovich's execution. When the device arrived at the prison, Cowing no longer wanted to have any part of the execution and resigned. Former governor Denver S. Dickerson, who had worked to reform the state prison system, was appointed the new warden.
In 1921, a bill authorizing the use of lethal gas had passed the Nevada State Legislature. Condemned murderer Gee Jon of the Hip Sing Tong criminal society became the first person to be executed by this method in the United States. Warden Dickerson sent his assistant Tom Pickett from Carson City to Los Angeles, California to personally pick up 20 pounds of lethal gas, which was contained in a mobile fumigating unit at a cost of $700. Four guards did not want to participate in the process and resigned. Prison officials first attempted to pump poison gas directly into Gee's cell while he was sleeping, but without success because the gas leaked from the cell. A makeshift gas chamber was set up at the butcher shop of the prison. Gee was strapped onto a chair in the chamber which was eleven feet long, ten feet wide, and eight feet high. A small window next to the wooden chair allowed witnesses to look inside. Attendees included news reporters, public health officials and representatives of the U.S. Army. On the morning of February 8, 1924, the pump sprayed four pounds of hydrocyanic acid into the chamber. Because an electric heater failed, the chamber was 52 degrees fahrenheit instead of the ideal 75 degrees, causing some of the acid to form a puddle on the floor. Gee's head appeared to nod up and down for six minutes before succumbing to the gas. The prison staff waited three hours for the remaining puddle of hydrocyanic acid to evaporate before cleaning up the chamber. Warden Dickerson reported to Nevada governor James G. Scrugham and the legislature his opinion that the use of lethal gas was impractical and that he thought execution by firing squad was still the best method of execution. Expenditures for Gee's execution totaled about $1,000, but the operating cost of the gas chamber plummeted to about 90 cents per use by 1937. Dickerson remained warden of Nevada State Prison until his death on November 28, 1925.
On October 22, 1979, convicted murderer Jesse Bishop became the first person to be executed at the prison after the state legislature reinstated the death penalty, following the lifting of a national moratorium on capital punishment. Bishop is also the last prisoner to be executed by lethal gas by the state. On December 6, 1985, serial killer Carroll Cole became the first inmate to be executed in Nevada by lethal injection. Executions continue to be carried out in the gas chamber, but on a gurney designed for lethal injection.
Nevada State Prison employs and provides vocational training for inmates in its factories, which produce mattresses and license plates. The prison has manufactured all Nevada vehicle registration plates since 1928. The prison industries also include a bookbindery and print shop. Minimum security inmates are eligible for forklift training.
In 2009, the Nevada state legislature rejected a proposal by Governor Jim Gibbons to close the prison amid a budget crisis, and instead approved the continued operation of the prison while plans to expand or construct other new prisons were delayed. In February 2010, Nevada Department of Corrections director Howard Skolnik notified employees that the prison may be closed while the state faced a $880 million deficit. Prison officials recommended moving the inmates to other facilities in the state prison system and converting the site into a tourist attraction or training center. The prison is scheduled to close in March 2012.
|Jesse Bishop||—||Executed October 22, 1979||Murder|
|Thomas Lee Bean||8630||Life imprisonment||Murder|
|Carroll Cole||20163||Executed December 6, 1985||Murder|
|Lawrence Colwell, Jr.||47271||Executed March 26, 2004||Murder|
|Terry Jess Dennis||62144||Executed August 12, 2004||Murder|
|Gee Jon||2320||Executed February 8, 1924||Tong war murder|
|Troy Kell||24333||Transferred to Ely State Prison||Murder|
|Jimmy Lerner||61634||Released January 2, 2002||Manslaughter|
|Daryl Linnie Mack||44532||Executed April 26, 2006||Murder|
|Andriza Mircovich||1479||Executed May 14, 1913||Murder|
|Joseph Mitchell Parsons||17976||Paroled August 1987||Armed robbery|
|1||Abraham Curry||January 1, 1862||March 1, 1864|
|2||Robert M. Howland||March 1, 1864||March 4, 1865|
|3||John S. Crosman||March 4, 1865||January 7, 1867|
|4||James S. Slingerland||January 1867||January 1869|
|5||Frank Denver||January 1869||March 1873 (removed)|
|6||Pressly C. Hyman||March 1873||March 1877|
|7||C. C. Batterman||March 1877||March 1881|
|8||William Garrard||March 1881||March 1883|
|9||Frank Bell||March 1883||February 14, 1887|
|10||Frank McCullough||February 14, 1887||January 1893|
|11||Frank Bell||February 1893||February 1895|
|12||L. O. Henderson||February 1895||February 1903|
|13||J. L. Considine||February 1903||May 1907|
|14||S. H. Day||May 1907||October 1908|
|15||W. J. Maxwell||October 1908||January 15, 1911|
|16||Raymond T. Baker||February 1, 1911||May 10, 1912|
|17||George W. Cowing||May 10, 1912||January 10, 1913|
|18||Denver S. Dickerson||March 10, 1913||December 5, 1916|
|19||Rufus B. Henrichs||December 5, 1916||December 1923|
|20||Denver S. Dickerson||December 23, 1923||November 28, 1925 (died)|
|21||Matthew R. Penrose||1925||1935|
|William L. Lewis|
|Jack Fogliani||1959||January 30, 1967 (fired)|
|Carl G. Hocker||January 30, 1967||April 1973|
|Ed Pogue||April 1973|
|Charles L. Wolff||November 30, 1981|
|George W. Sumner||November 30, 1981||May 1985|
|Harold Whitley||August 7, 1985|
|John Ignacio||August 2000 (retired)|
|Donald L. Helling||September 2000|
|Michael J. Budge||January 1, 2006 (retired)|
|William Donat||January 1, 2006||January 30, 2009 (retired)|
|Gregory Smith||January 30, 2009||present|
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- Nevada State Prison at the Nevada Department of Corrections (Official site)
- Nevada State Prison Closure Plan Overview – Nevada Department of Corrections (July 2, 2010)