Nevada State Prison

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Coordinates: 39°09′37″N 119°44′15″W / 39.16028°N 119.73750°W / 39.16028; -119.73750

Nevada State Prison (NSP)
Nevada State Prison USGS.jpeg
1999 aerial photo of the prison
Location3301 E. 5th Street
Carson City, Nevada 89702[1]
Coordinates39°09′37″N 119°44′15″W / 39.16028°N 119.73750°W / 39.16028; -119.73750
Security classHigh
Population219 [2] (as of September 2011)
Managed byNevada Department of Corrections
WardenGregory Smith[1]

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.[1] The high security facility housed 219 inmates in September 2011.[2] It was designed to hold 841 inmates and employed a staff of 211.[1]

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.[3] The state of Nevada chose to close the facility for budgetary reasons.[4]

The prison closed its doors on May 18, 2012,[5] with all inmates transferred to other institutions or released.

Although the prison has closed, it was still designated as the site of executions for the State of Nevada,[6] until the current execution chamber at Ely State Prison opened in 2016.


Abraham Curry was the first warden of the prison.
The Nevada State Capitol was built with stone from the prison's quarry.

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.[7]

In 1867, a fire destroyed the original building.[1] In 1870, a major portion of the prison burned down and was rebuilt with inmate labor and stone from the on-site quarry.[1]

On September 17, 1871, lieutenant governor and warden Frank Denver was seriously injured in a prison break that involved 27 inmates.[8][9][10] 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.[1][11]

The prison was expanded in 1964 by the Northern Nevada Correctional Center.[12] The Nevada State Prison operated as a maximum security facility until 1989, when Ely State Prison was opened to fulfill that function.[1]

The Bullpen[edit]

After Nevada Governor Fred Balzar signed Assembly Bill 98 into law and legalised gambling in the state, Nevada State Prison did the unthinkable and opened a casino for inmates. Nicknamed the Bullpen, the casino was a success for three decades[13] before it was eventually shut down.

The casino operated in a windowless solid rock room carved from natural sandstone surrounding the prison before it was moved to a larger sandstone building with walls sometime in the 1930s. During its 30-year operation, the casino offered traditional games such as blackjack, craps and poker and inmates ran the entire casino, from hosting games to organising security. Inmates also had their own currency in denominations of 5c, 10c, 25c, 50c, $1 and $5 which were used at the casino. Today, the currency is considered a collector's item.

The Bullpen's closure came after new Nevada Governor Paul Laxalt hired Carl Hocker as the prison's warden. Hocker ordered the casino to be shut down and for gambling to be replaced with more "wholesome" activities such as volleyball, ping pong and painting. The bullpen officially closed in April 1967 and the sandstone building that housed the casino was knocked down.[4]


Prior to 2016, prisoners facing capital punishment were held at Ely State Prison and were sent to Nevada State Prison's execution chamber to be executed.[6] In 2016, a new execution chamber was opened at Ely and the chamber at the Nevada State Prison was closed.[14]

This prison became the state-designated facility for all hangings in 1903. In response to Mormon preferences,[15] the Nevada State Legislature passed a statute in 1910 that became effective in January 1911,[16] allowing condemned prisoners to choose between execution by shooting or hanging.[3]

Andriza Mircovich was the first and only inmate in Nevada to be executed by shooting.

On May 14, 1913, Andriza Mircovich became the first and only inmate in Nevada to be executed by shooting.[17] After warden George W. Cowing was unable to find five men to form a firing squad,[18] 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 he resigned.[19] Former governor Denver S. Dickerson, who had worked to reform the state prison system, was appointed the new warden.[20]

Denver S. Dickerson supervised the first executions by shooting and lethal gas at the prison.

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.[21] 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.[22] Prison officials first attempted to pump poison gas directly into Gee's cell while he was sleeping,[21] but without success because the gas leaked from the cell.[23] A makeshift gas chamber was set up at the butcher shop of the prison.[24] Gee was strapped onto a chair in the chamber which was eleven feet long, ten feet wide, and eight feet high.[25] A small window next to the wooden chair allowed witnesses to look inside.[24] Attendees included news reporters, public health officials and representatives of the U.S. Army.[22] On the morning of February 8, 1924,[22] 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 he succumbed to the gas. The prison staff waited three hours for the remaining puddle of hydrocyanic acid to evaporate before cleaning up the chamber.[26] 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.[25] 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.[27] Dickerson remained warden of Nevada State Prison until his death on November 28, 1925.[20]

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.[28] On December 6, 1985, serial killer Carroll Cole became the first inmate to be executed in Nevada by lethal injection.[29] Executions continue to be carried out in the gas chamber, but on a gurney designed for lethal injection.

In 2012 the department was considering a capital improvement program that would relocate the execution chamber from Nevada State Prison to Ely State Prison.[30] The current execution chamber at Ely opened in 2016.[31]

Operations before closure[edit]

All license plates in Nevada have been made at the prison since 1928.

Nevada State Prison employed and provided vocational training for inmates in its factories, which produced mattresses and license plates. The prison manufactured all Nevada vehicle registration plates since 1928. The prison industries also included a bookbindery and print shop. Minimum security inmates were eligible for forklift training.[1]

Inmates were offered the opportunity to earn a GED or take collegiate courses through Western Nevada College.[1]

After the closure of Nevada State Prison, the license plate factory was relocated to Northern Nevada Correctional Center.


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 system faced a $880 million deficit.[4] 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.[32] The prison closed in May 2012.[2]

Notable inmates[edit]

Inmate Number Status Description
Jesse Bishop Executed October 22, 1979 Murder
Thomas Lee Bean 8630[33] Life imprisonment[34] Murder
Carroll Cole 20163 Executed December 6, 1985 Murder
Lawrence Colwell, Jr. 47271[35] Executed March 26, 2004[36] Murder
Terry Jess Dennis 62144[37] Executed August 12, 2004[38] Murder
Gee Jon 2320[39] Executed February 8, 1924[40] Tong war murder
Troy Kell 24333[41] Transferred to Central Utah Correctional Facility Murder
Jimmy Lerner 61634[42] Released January 2, 2002[43] Manslaughter
Daryl Linnie Mack 44532[44] Executed April 26, 2006 Murder
Andriza Mircovich 1479[45] Executed May 14, 1913[17] Murder
Joseph Mitchell Parsons 17976[46] Paroled August 1987,[47] and executed on October 15, 1999 at Utah State Prison Armed robbery
Alice Maud Hartley Pardoned 1897[48] Second-degree murder[49]


# Name Start End
1 Abraham Curry[50] 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[51] February 1, 1911 May 10, 1912
17 George W. Cowing[50] May 10, 1912 January 10, 1913
18 Denver S. Dickerson[52] March 10, 1913 December 5, 1916
19 Rufus B. Henrichs[53] December 5, 1916 December 1923
20 Denver S. Dickerson[54] December 23, 1923 November 28, 1925 (died)
21 Matthew R. Penrose[55] 1925 1935
22 William L. Lewis
23 Richard Sheeny
24 Arthur Bernard January 1951 April 1959
25 Jack Fogliani[56] 1959 January 30, 1967 (fired)
26 Carl G. Hocker[56] January 30, 1967 April 1973
27 Ed Pogue[57] April 1973 August 1976 (Resigned and relocated to Southern Nevada Correctional Center)
Charles L. Wolff 1976 November 30, 1981
28 John Slansky 1978 1987
George W. Sumner November 30, 1981 May 1985
Harold Whitley August 7, 1985
Pete Demosthenes
John Ignacio[58] August 2000 (retired)
Donald L. Helling[58] September 2000
Michael J. Budge January 1, 2006 (retired)
William Donat[59] January 1, 2006 January 30, 2009 (retired)
Gregory Smith[59] January 30, 2009 present
James B. Hume (Hume as "Temporary Warden" played in 1965 on Death Valley Days by Ronald W. Reagan prior to Hume's assignment with Wells Fargo) Dates missing

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "NDOC: Nevada State Prison". Nevada Department of Corrections. April 27, 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Dornan, Geoff (18 September 2011). "Nevada State Prison down to just over 200 inmates". Nevada Appeal. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  3. ^ a b Rocha, Guy Louis. "An Outline of Capital Punishment in Nevada (catid 135)". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Ryan, Cy (February 3, 2010). "Nevada State Prison could be closed to save money". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  5. ^ "Nevada State Prison - CLOSED". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Department Organization" (Archive). Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved on September 19, 2015. "The site of executions is still the chamber in the Nevada State Prison."
  7. ^ "Board of State Prison Commissioners". Nevada Dept. of Corrections. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  8. ^ Rocha, Guy (2010). "Myth 142: Brothers Denver". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  9. ^ Dolan, Trent (October 9, 2008). "The great Carson City prison escape of 1871". Nevada Appeal.
  10. ^ "The Great Escape from Carson City, September 17, 1871". NevadaGram. Nevada Travel Network. November 14, 2015.
  11. ^ Earl, Phillip I. (2000). This Was Nevada, Volume 2. Nevada Historical Society. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  12. ^ "Northern Nevada Correctional Center". Nevada Dept. of Corrections. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  13. ^ "Gambling Behind Bars: Nevada State Prison's Inmate Casino". Best UK Online Casino Sites 2018 - Licensed by Gambling Commission. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Christianson, Scott (2010). The Last Gasp: The Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber. University of California Press. p. 62. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  16. ^ "To Be Shot To Death". The Montreal Gazette. June 17, 1912. p. 1. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  17. ^ a b "Nevada State Prison Inmate Case Files: Andriza Mircovich". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  18. ^ "No One To Shoot Murderer" (PDF). The New York Times. August 12, 1912. Retrieved November 9, 2010.
  19. ^ Cafferata, Patty (June 2010). "Capital Punishment Nevada Style". Nevada Lawyer. State Bar of Nevada. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  20. ^ a b "Nevada Governor Denver Sylvester Dickerson". National Governors Association. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  21. ^ a b Gerber, Rudolph Joseph; Johnson, John M. (2007). The Top Ten Death Penalty Myths: The Politics of Crime Control. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 9–10. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  22. ^ a b c Christianson, Scott (2010). Fatal Airs: The Deadly History and Apocalyptic Future of Lethal Gases That Threaten Our World. ABC-CLIO. pp. 49–51. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  23. ^ "Descriptions of Execution Methods: Gas Chamber". Death Penalty Information Center. 2010. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  24. ^ a b Bryant, Clifton D. (2003). Handbook of Death and Dying. SAGE Publications. pp. 362–363. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  25. ^ a b Reid, John Bevis; James, Ronald Michael (2004). Uncovering Nevada's Past: A Primary Source History of the Silver State. University of Nevada Press. p. 108. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  26. ^ Banner, Stuart (2002). The Death Penalty. Harvard University Press. p. 198. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  27. ^ "Gas Execution Cost 90 Cents". Lodi News-Sentinel. United Press International. August 27, 1937. p. 6. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  28. ^ Rocha, Guy (February 8, 1998). The death penalty: Nevada. Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  29. ^ Rocha, Guy Louis (2010). "An Outline of Capital Punishment in Nevada (418)". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  30. ^ "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."
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ "Nevada DOC Recommends State Prison Closure". Correctional News. November 2, 2010. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  33. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Thomas L Bean". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  34. ^ "Bean v. Nevada". May 18, 1976. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  35. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Lawrence Colwell". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  36. ^ "Colwell, Jr., Lawrence#905". Clark County, Indiana Prosecutor's Office. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  37. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Terry J Dennis". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  38. ^ "Terry Jess Dennis #923". Clark County, Indiana Prosecutor's Office. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  39. ^ "Nevada State Prison Inmate Case Files: J". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  40. ^ "Nevada State Prison Inmate Case Files: Gee Jon". Nevada State Library and Archives. July 11, 2003. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  41. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Troy M. Kell". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  42. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Jimmy Lerner". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  43. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (March 31, 2002). "The Talented Mr. Lerner". The New York Times. p. 5. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  44. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Daryl Linnie Mack". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  45. ^ "Nevada State Prison Inmate Case Files: M". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  46. ^ "Nevada Offender Tracking Information System: Joseph Mitchell Parsons". Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
  47. ^ "Killer Receives April Execution Date". Deseret News. March 7, 1990. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
  48. ^ "Senator Foley's Slayer Freed". The San Francisco Call. January 13, 1897. p. 5.
  49. ^ "Senator Foley's Slayer Sentenced". Los Angeles Times. January 13, 1895. p. 3.
  50. ^ a b Dickerson, Denver S. (1915). Biennial Report of the Warden of the State Prison 1913–1914. Appendix to Journals of Senate and Assembly, Volume 3. Nevada State Legislature. Retrieved November 11, 2010.
  51. ^ "The Golden-Rule Prison". Sunset, Volume 28. Southern Pacific Company: 174. 1912. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  52. ^ Earl, Phillip I.; Shepperson, Wilbur Stanley; Hartigan, Francis X. (1989). "By the Knife: Tonopah's Gregovich-Mircovich Murder Case". History and Humanities. University of Nevada Press: 31–43. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  53. ^ Henrichs, Rufus B. (1917). Biennial report of the Nevada State Police. Nevada State Police. p. 35. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  54. ^ Christianson, Scott (2010). The Last Gasp. p. 72.
  55. ^ Biennial Report of the Public Service Commission of Nevada 1925-1926. Nevada. Public Service Commission. 1927. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  56. ^ a b "Nevada Prison Warden Fired After Jailbreak". TimesDaily. January 30, 1967. p. 13. Retrieved November 14, 2010.
  57. ^ United States Court of Claims (1976). Federal supplement, Volume 405. West Publishing Company. p. 682. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
  58. ^ a b "Prison Warden Retires". Nevada Department of Corrections. August 7, 2000. Retrieved November 12, 2010. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NDOC-20000807-retires" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  59. ^ a b "New Warden Named at Nevada State Prison". KOLO-TV. January 22, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2010.

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