Nevada plans to reopen juvenile correctional facility in September

Yesenia Amaro

April 8, 2015

http://www.reviewjournal.com/news/las-vegas/nevada-plans-reopen-juvenile-correctional-facility-september

Nevada officials plan to reopen a recently closed juvenile correctional facility in Clark County in early September.

The state last month shut down Red Rock Academy, which was run by Rite of Passage, a nonprofit organization. Both parties signed an amicable separation amendment for an early contract termination, which the nonprofit is now challenging while the state contends it was lawful.

State officials on Thursday will request approval from the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee to move about $700,000 the state would have used to pay Rite of Passage into a separate account, said Mike Willden, chief of staff for Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“We will be asking to move that money into an account to let us clean up the facility and make necessary repairs to help us get the facility up to standards and codes to reopen it,” Willden said on Wednesday.

If approved by the Interim Finance Committee, those funds would be used to replace hundreds of windows covered in graffiti, fix torn floors, paint areas that require it and replace damaged equipment, Willden said.

However, a Rite of Passage source said the nonprofit spent the last 20 months rehabilitating the facility that the original contract indicated should have been in operable condition.

The source claims the facility is in 100 percent better condition than when it was turned over to Rite of Passage in summer 2013.

“There are receipts and photos to prove it,” the source said. “Rite of Passage, when it was given the facility, the conditions were deplorable.”

The facility was not graffiti-free when it was turned over to Rite of Passage, acknowledged Willden, adding that certain windows covered in graffiti had been approved for repair.

The state had its own set of photos on Wednesday to defend its position.

“From what I’ve read and from what I know, they mostly attempted to comply with staffing ratios, so it appears to me that the real question is what were staff watching when they were watching” the youth? Willden asked. “How does the facility get so tagged? So much graffiti, and the cleanliness standards are far below what’s acceptable.”

Willden toured the facility when it was in good shape. It’s about maintaining consistency, he added.

“I would sometimes wonder whether we were being too rigid … but now I’m convinced we weren’t,” he said.

State officials were unhappy with the nonprofit’s progress on its corrective action planning and there was a clear discussion about that with Rite of Passage leadership, Willden said. Several reports and reviews found problems at the facility.

Under the contract, the state had an on-site monitor that provided quarterly reports. In December, the reports became weekly and highlighted problems with supervision and lax security, including unlocked doors.

A 2014 Legislative Counsel Bureau audit reviewed Red Rock and other state facilities. As part of that audit, Red Rock was required to provide six-month progress reports on corrective action plans.

A review conducted by two nurses with the state’s Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance in late February found issues in the medical unit.

There were several repeating issues such as lack of supervision of the youth, safety and security problems, according to the reports and reviews.

The state has submitted a budget amendment for the Legislature to consider for fiscal year 2016-17 operations at Red Rock.

“We are asking the Legislature that the state run the facility going forward and we would hope to be able to reopen the facility in the September time frame,” Willden said.

For fiscal year 2015, it cost the state $4.6 million to have Rite of Passage run the facility.

The state plans to hire 61 employees and budget for up to 50 juveniles.

If the budget amendment is approved, the state would begin recruiting staff as soon as possible and hire workers in July. It would then train employees in July and August before the September opening.

The state would get independent contractors for food services, behavioral health and medical care. The Clark County School District would provide education personnel, Willden said.

Regarding the now-contested amicable contract amendment, Willden explained that the Nevada Board of Examiners reviews all contracts for the state. Contract amendments that increase the scope of the work or the amount of money the state will spend go to the full board. Amendments that have a value of $50,000 can be informational items for the board. And the clerk of the board may approve contract amendments that have no dollar value or adverse impact to the state and shorten or extend the time of the contract.

The clerk for the board signed the amendment between the state and Rite of Passage on Monday.

Willden said the Nevada attorney general’s office deemed the amendment to be a “valid, non-revocable, amicable separation agreement.”

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Find her on Twitter: @YeseniaAmaro