VEGAS LOST: The plan to close Elko's Nevada Youth Training Center

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“As soon as he hung up with dad, they hogtied him put him in the cell.”

Lisa McGee told us that four years ago. She was standing outside a courtroom, ready to testify about the treatment of her son at the Nevada Youth Training Center in Elko.

“He has marks on his hands, wrists, and ankles," she said.

She would tell that story again to Judge William Voy. He told the people in court he was taking accusations of abuse seriously.

“If a parent did that, it would be child abuse,” he said. “Probably criminal charges.”

McGee’s son and several other young inmates at the Youth Training Center (NYTC) were being hogtied. Their hands and feet were bound behind their backs. They were then carried by their shackles.

Hogtying is not illegal and, when done correctly, can be used to subdue an inmate. However, this was not done correctly.

What was happening at the NYTC in 2014 drew the ire of the courts.

Judge William Voy immediately removed all Clark County kids from the Northern Nevada facility.

“I’ve made it my Don Quixote windmill approach over the years to see that place close," he told us in June.

According to Judge Voy, “that place” was all but closed.

Let’s go back five years before the judge ordered all the Clark County kids removed.

The state was rethinking juvenile justice entirely. A commission was formed; lawmakers, advocates judges all sitting together to talk about what needed to change.

Early on they had an idea.

“The idea for regionalization is to keep your kids close to the community they’re in so you can have community engagement,” Voy told us.

Part of the criticism of the NYTC is how far away from Las Vegas it is. It sits in Elko, a seven-hour car ride away from Clark County.

That distance makes it difficult for families to visit their kids, which would give them much needed support during their detention.

“It’s a huge thing,” Voy says. “Because they’re up there for eight months and come back home, they’re coming back to the same situation.”

So the plan was to regionalize -- keep southern Nevada kids in southern Nevada. They put that plan together using records from five years of meetings.

Early on, here’s how it would work;

Phase one:

By two 2015, reduce the number of beds in Elko to just 40.

Those 40 would be Northern Nevada kids, not Clark County.

Phase two:

By 2017, close Elko. The savings would be sent to the counties through grants.

Clark County kids would be housed in Clark County at a North Las Vegas facility called Summit View.

The plan was finalized and sent to the legislature for a Bill Draft Request (BDR)

Today, you can go to the Nevada Youth Training Center and you’ll find that more than half the kids there are still from Clark County.

So what happened?

According to the state, funding issues derailed the plan. Elko still plays a key piece in the juvenile justice system. Ross Armstrong from DCFS told us as much.

“Elko is a critical piece for us. We have Caliente for low-risk kids, Summit View for high-risk kids and Elko really helps us figure out that middle ground.”

Assemblyman John Hambrick paints a more complicated picture. We asked him why the idea disappeared.

“It came down to whether the groups that were proponents and opponents could iron out their differences,” Hambrick told us. “What committee it could go to. It just never got there, both died in committee.”

Hambrick was on the commission and voted for the plan to regionalize. We pressed him on what specific issue spelled the end.

“Was it a funding issue? An issue of who’s going to watch over this? Or is it an issue of counties up north depending on Clark County kids for funding and for jobs?” News 3 asked.

“Without being too facetious,” he responded, “the answer is yes.”

The plan died and so did the committee.

In 2016, the Governor dissolved it. The last item in the minutes was a request from Judge Voy to talk about regionalization again, but the next meeting never happened.

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