Ely State Prison

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Coordinates: 39°23′08″N 114°56′18″W / 39.3855°N 114.9384°W / 39.3855; -114.9384

Ely State Prison (ESP)
Ely State Prison USGS.jpg
1999 aerial photo of the prison
Location 4569 North State Route 490
Ely, Nevada 89702[1]
Coordinates 39°23′7.80″N 114°56′18.24″W / 39.3855000°N 114.9384000°W / 39.3855000; -114.9384000
Status Operational
Security class Maximum
Capacity 1,150[1]
Population 1,077 male inmates[2] (as of September 1, 2010)
Opened July 1989
Managed by Nevada Department of Corrections
Warden Renee Baker[1]

Ely State Prison (ESP) is a maximum security penitentiary located in unincorporated White Pine County, Nevada, about 9 miles (14 km) north of Ely.[3] The facility, operated by the Nevada Department of Corrections, opened in July 1989. As of 2010 the prison has a staff of 406 and is a major employer in the Ely area.[1] As of September 2010, the prison housed 1,077 male inmates.[2]

The state's death row for men is located at Ely State Prison,[1] as is the execution chamber, which opened in 2016.


The prison opened in July 1989. Phase I was completed and opened in August of that year. Phase II was completed in the month of November in 1990. Originally Ely had a capacity of 1,054; as of 2010 its capacity is for 1,150. The prison has a staff of 406 and is a major employer in the Ely area.[1]

Allegations of Inadequate Medical Care and ACLU Lawsuit[edit]

Ely State Prison was the recipient of numerous criticisms by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding its alleged failure to provide adequate medical care to its inmates.[4]

Dr. William Noel, a medical expert retained by the ACLU, produced a report in December 2007 that described his review of the medical records of thirty five prisoners from ESP. He wrote that "the medical care provided at Ely State Prison amounts to the grossest possible medical malpractice, and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering, that I have ever encountered in the medical profession in my thirty-five years of practice." [5]

His report describes in detail the death of Patrick Cavanaugh, an inmate who he claims died due to complications of diabetes, after having received no insulin for a period of three years and having his ulcerated legs left to fester without treatment or amputation.[6] The report also mentions accounts of wholly untreated cases of chronic pain,[7] hepatitis,[8] fibromyalgia,[9] rheumatoid arthritis[9] and syphilis.[10] The report also notes cases in which an epileptic patient was not regularly equipped with a helmet; in which a stroke sufferer was not given any physical therapy nor even an arm brace to prevent the eventual contraction of his affected limb;[11] and in which a patient was switched back to a potentially lethal medication.[12]

On January 23, 2008, the ACLU met with the Nevada State Board of Prison Commissioners seeking a consent decree which would voluntarily have let a federal court oversee prison medical care. Nevada Governor, Jim Gibbons, and other commissioners were presented with a report by Corrections Director Howard Skolnik and Ely State Prison medical director Dr. Robert Bannister refuting Noel's findings. The commissioners rejected the ACLU's request at this point in time.[4]

On March 6, 2009, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Corrections, Governor Gibbons and other state officials. In it, they sought to have a federal judge find that the Corrections Department had not provided inmates with adequate medical care.[4] The suit was settled in July 2010, with the Nevada Corrections Department agreeing to appoint an independent medical expert to monitor the prison's health care system and to submit regular reports evaluating officials' compliance with various medical requirements. It was also agreed that nurses would make daily rounds at the prison to pick up medical request forms and that inmates would have access to a registered nurse or higher level practitioner within forty eight hours of requesting medical attention.[13]

2011 Prisoner Riot[edit]

For some time on Unit 4A, personal property was being damaged during cell searches, the phone was hardly passed out, cleaning supplies were denied, and several inmates weren’t being fed occasionally. On the night of August 3, 2011, an incident in which an officer told his colleagues about an inmate “break his arm if you have to”, was the spark to a widespread prison protest. Several protests by large numbers of inmates took place over the next couple of days. The rebellion was so tense that the warden AWO Debra Brooks, and Lieutenant Calvin Peck had to come on to the unit to dish and serve the inmates their dinner that night.

Coyote Sheff was blamed by the ESP administration for being the one to organize this demonstration of rebellion and was promptly moved to the infirmary later that evening, as a means to isolate him from the rest of the prisoners who were involved in the demonstration, in the hopes that Sheff’s removal would quell the disturbance. Yet the demonstration continued, and was carried on by the rest of the recalcitrant prisoners who remained on the A-wing of Unit 4, until finally, administration decided to separate and remove most of the prisoners involved. Some of these prisoners were moved to the infirmary, some were moved to the B-wing of Unit 4, others were moved to other units throughout the prison, while a couple remained in 4-A. Thus, the demonstration ended, with no serious injuries to staff or inmates.

2010 Prisoner Riot[edit]

In November 2009, prisoners report that inmates who had been placed in "Disciplinary Segregation" were strategically moved to wings of Ely State Prison in which they were deliberately surrounded by offenders in protective custody and prisoners suffering from severe mental illness. This was alleged to be an attempt to psychologically intimidate those transferred, and it has been related that guards escalated tensions by removing prisoners' appliances in violation of protocol and failing to respond to inmate communications.

On January 31, 2010, those imprisoned in Block 4B of the prison retaliated for these perceived abuses by inducing flooding and burning, and interfering with food slots and sprinkler systems, in an attempt to force guards into a confrontation as they tried to extract the riotous inmates from their cells. This conflict over what amounted to sixteen cell extractions left three prisoners badly injured, with one inmate requiring care from an outside hospital due to head trauma. Prisoners report that all guards involved in the altercation received some manner of injury, and that one received a debilitating stab wound.

Men's death row and execution chamber[edit]

The men's death row is located at Ely. As of 2016 there are 81 prisoners on that death row.[14]

The state execution chamber at Ely was built in 2016. The Nevada Legislature agreed to spend almost $860,000 to build it.[15] A Las Vegas company, Kittrell Garlock & Associates, designed the chamber.[16] The execution chamber was previously the prison courtroom, and it also functions as a private meeting place for attorneys. At that time no executions were scheduled due to a lack of execution drugs available.[14] Previously executions by the state of Nevada were to be carried out at Nevada State Prison,[17] even though the facility closed due to budget issues in 2012. In 2012 the department was considering a capital improvement program that would relocate the execution chamber from Nevada State Prison to Ely State Prison.[18]

Notable inmates[edit]

Inmate Number Status Description
Darren Mack 1014861[19] Eligible for parole in 2042 Murder - Millionaire who killed his wife and shot a judge over a dispute over custody of his child.
Coyote Sheff 55671[20] Released in November 2013 Battery with a deadly weapon, writer and prison activist who spent his last five years on High Risk Potential status
David Casper 65117[21] Transferred to Arizona Armed robbery - Adopted son of world-famous golfer Billy Casper. NDOC considers him to be High Risk Potential due to multiple attempts to escape from Ely State Prison.
Ike Ibeabuchi 71979[22] Released by Nevada, February 2014; released from custody, November 2015 Battery with intent to commit a crime and attempted sexual assault - A former world heavyweight boxing champion.
Jose Vigoa 73847[23] Serving 4 life sentences without parole. Armed robbery, murder - Vigoa was the leader of a band of robbers who robbed multiple casinos and armored cars in the Las Vegas area from 1998-2000, killing two guards during the crime spree. He pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty, and was sentenced to life without parole. The case was later featured in an episode of The FBI Files.

Writings from Ely State Prison Inmates[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "NDOC: Ely State Prison". Nevada Department of Corrections. April 27, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Offender Management Division (September 1, 2010). "Report 1.1: Daily Offender Count by Location" (PDF). Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Ely State Prison (ESP)" (Archive). Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved on September 19, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Vogel, Ed (March 6, 2008). "Ely State Prison: Lawsuit to be filed over inmate care". Las Vegas Review Journal. 
  5. ^ William, Noel. Report Prepared for the National Prison Project of the ACLU: Review of Medical Records from Ely State Prison. pp. 1–2. 
  6. ^ Noel, p. 2-3
  7. ^ Noel, p. 10
  8. ^ Noel, p. 16, 18
  9. ^ a b Noel, p. 5
  10. ^ Noel, p. 3-4
  11. ^ Noel, p. 11-12
  12. ^ Noel, p. 17
  13. ^ "ACLU Agrees To Settle Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Medical Care At Nevada's Ely State Prison" (Press release). American Civil Liberties Union. July 16, 2010. 
  14. ^ a b Pearce, Ed (2016-11-29). "Nevada's new death chamber will sit unused for some time". KOLO-TV. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  15. ^ Whaley, Sean (2016-11-27). "Nevada's new $860,000 execution chamber is finished but gathering dust". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  16. ^ "Nevada execution chamber construction moving forward despite drug cutoff". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2017-04-23. 
  17. ^ "Department Organization" (Archive). Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved on September 19, 2015. "At the present time the lawful method of execution is by means of lethal injection. The site of executions is still the chamber in the Nevada State Prison."
  18. ^ "MINUTES Of the meeting of the BOARD OF PRISON COMMISSIONERS MEETING October 15, 2012." Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved on September 19, 2015. "The capital improvement program (CIP) to move the execution chamber to Ely State Prison is expected to take approximately 12 - 14 months and the CIP to move the tag plant to Northern Nevada Correctional Center is approximately 16 – 18 months. "
  19. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Darren R. Mack". Retrieved November 3, 2010. [permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Coy Sheff". Retrieved November 7, 2010. [permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: David Casper". Retrieved November 7, 2010. [permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Ike Ibeabuchi". [permanent dead link]
  23. ^

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