by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
Nevada Department of Corrections Director Charles Daniels, who has faced questions about transparency from lawmakers and civil rights groups alike for nearly two years, resigned Friday after an inmate, who was serving life for murder, escaped and the department failed to report it for several days.
Gov. Steve Sisiolak announced Friday that he asked for the resignation and that six corrections officers have been placed on paid administrative leave for breaching security protocols.
“The situation with the escaped inmate is a serious and unacceptable breach of protocol,” Sisolak said. “I’m grateful the escapee was captured quickly. But let me be clear, this cannot happen again.”
In a press release Tuesday, Sept. 27, NDOC announced that Porfirio Duarte-Herrera, who was serving a life sentence at Southern Desert Correctional Center, had escaped. However, Duarte-Herrera had already been missing for several days.
“This morning, my office was informed by the Nevada Department of Corrections that an inmate was reported as missing,” Sisolak said in a statement Tuesday. “My office later learned that upon further investigation by NDOC the inmate has been missing since early in the weekend. This is unacceptable.”
William Gittere, the deputy director of operations, was named as acting director.
Duarte-Herrera, who was convicted in 2010 for killing a hotdog vendor after a bomb he constructed went off at the Luxor garage, was apprehended in Las Vegas Wednesday after he was spotted by a shuttle bus company employee who contacted police.
Daniels, who was appointed as the director in December 2019, has faced a string of criticisms from multiple quarters, including prison employees and inmates’ families, concerning operations of the prisons and his department’s sluggish responses to requests for information – even requests from lawmakers.
NDOC employees from High Desert State Prison and Southern Desert Correctional Center sent a letter to Sisolak early in September accusing Daniels of creating a hostile work environment.
Daniels has faced an onslaught of criticism from civil rights and prison advocacy groups for his handling of the pandemic.
A report released earlier this year by the Crime and Justice Institute, commissioned by Sisolak, to look at how the pandemic affected the justice system found that while Nevada ranked 21st in Covid transmission rates “the prison system had the third-highest rate of deaths among incarcerated populations across 45 states.”
Over the last two years, Daniels has faced pushback from lawmakers, including Sisolak, who last summer called low vaccination rates among staff as “atrocious and not acceptable.” Staff vaccination rates subsequently went up.
A prisoner advocacy group released a report last October which included stories collected from inmates that scrutinized the prisons system’s use of lockdowns and limitations on inmates’ access to medical care.
More recently, groups including the prison advocacy group Return Strong and the Fines and Fees Justice Center, questioned over the department marking up the prices of commissary items.
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