Accusations of poor oversight at a Las Vegas area prison came as no surprise to former corrections employees and relatives of inmates who spoke out against officials as lawsuits citing unreported shootings at the facility began to emerge, the Las Vegas Sun reports. “The Department of Corrections is out of control,” said Mark Clarke, who retired from the agency about a decade ago after a 15-year stint as a corrections officer. Inmate Carlos Perez was handcuffed when a corrections officer trainee fatally shot him in a shower hallway last November at High Desert State Prison. News of that shooting, which corrections officials disclosed five months later in a sparse press release, has brought to light additional accounts of unreported shootings at a facility where guards have fired guns more than 200 times in a recent five-year period.
Data from the corrections department shows guards at the prison fired 215 shots from 2007 to 2011, nearly twice the 124 shots reported in Nevada's 21 other prison facilities. The statistics list a total of 605 use-of-force incidents at High Desert and 1,103 incidents at the other prisons combined. Mercedes Maharis, who became an advocate for prison inmates in the late 1990s after working as a chaplain for the Department of Corrections, obtained the data from a state senator. “I'm glad all this has come out,” said Maharis, who often accuses the agency of discouraging public scrutiny. “The state's prison system is totally broken.” Critics blamed the spate of shootings at High Desert on low pay, high turnover and poor training for employees.