The Assembly Ways and Means Committee was told Saturday because of the state’s maximum security prison, White Pine County needs help building a new courthouse.

District Judge Steve Dobrescu testified the historic courthouse built in 1908 is a severe security problem when they have inmates on trial with the violent offender just a few feet away from the jury.

He said the Ely State Prison houses Nevada’s “most dangerous and violent offenders” who, he said, don’t stop committing crimes just because they’re in prison. He said a significant part of the court’s workload is generated by those inmates including, since 2000, six murder trials and 11 attempted murder cases.

To ensure they get a fair trial, Dobrescu said those inmates must be in civilian clothing and can’t be shackled. He said he had one juror tell him she was so afraid of the inmate, she couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying.

On top of that, he said there’s a middle school across the street and a library nearby, with children playing on the courthouse grounds.

Assembly Bill 40 would provide White Pine County a total of $10 million over the next three years to pay for roughly a third of a new $25 to $30 million courthouse with proper security. The committee was told White Pine County can raise about $9 million of that and get another third of the total in a USDA loan. But it needs the state to help with the remaining funding.

The committee took no action on the measure.

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