Nevada State Archives Receives Grant Funds to Process Backlog of Inmate Files

The Nevada State Archives is pleased to announce that $108,570.68 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant has been awarded to process the backlog of Inmate Files.

The pandemic greatly impacted the Archives’ ability to progress with this work. Processing of archival inmate case files halted completely in March 2020 and has been incremental since July 2020. In compliance with Nevada State mandates to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Archives staff worked remotely during the height of the pandemic (some worked remotely for over a year). Subsequently, staff worked only part time on site, staggering on-site schedules to ensure social distancing. All staff are now working fully on site and are attempting to complete the many physical projects that accumulated in 2020 and 2021 as well as keep pace with incoming records transfers. 

The purpose of this project is to fast-track processing the most recent case files of former inmates of Nevada correctional facilities to make them more accessible to people who need them. Inmate files are some of the most frequently and urgently requested documents held by the Nevada State Archives and Records. There are currently 5,164 boxes of inmate case files from the 1970s to 2014 in need of archival processing. The Archives requests funds to process 1,090 boxes of the most recently dated files because access to the most recent files have the greatest effect on individuals and families impacted by the justice system. Digitizing the records will enable staff to fulfill records requests via email, better serving individuals and families who are unable to travel to the Archives.

Prior to 2015, all inmate records were considered permanent. In 2015, Nevada State Records Disposition Authorization number 2016015 reduced the types of inmate records that are considered permanent to 12 specific types of documents. Simultaneously, the Disposition Authorization mandated that the Department of Corrections transfer inmate records to the Archives 7 years after the inmate has been released rather than keeping inactive records in their custody for 25 years. The sudden opening of 18 years’ worth of records created a backlog of thousands of inmate files that require review by Archives staff before public records requests for these case files can be fulfilled. 

There are currently 5,164 cubic feet (1 box = 1 cubic foot) of inmate case files to be processed by the Archives, with additional records coming in on a routine basis. The agency requests grant funds to fast-track access to the most recently released records. An award of $108,570.68 will pay for supplies, equipment, and contract employees to process 1,090 boxes of inmate case files.  There are approximately 10-15 case files per box. Existing folders include metal brackets that may rust over time, therefore records identified as permanent will be transferred to new folders. Staff will reuse original boxes when possible and only replace boxes in poor condition. We anticipate replacing up to 5% of the boxes. We anticipate shredding 85% of the box contents. Significant progress in processing the inmate case files will require concentrated effort by contract employees specifically dedicated to this project.  

Expected outcome – 

1) Increase access to most recent inmate case files: 

a. Digital versions of inmate records will be readily accessible to individuals and families who have been impacted by the justice system in Nevada.  
b. The Nevada State Department of Corrections and the State Archives will have ready access to digital versions of the most recent archived inmate case files, facilitating timely response to public information requests and subpoenas duces tecum. 

2) Protect the privacy of individuals impacted by the justice system by securely destroying confidential non-permanent records.

3) Maximize storage space, which is a valuable commodity. Processed inmate case files occupy 85% less space than unprocessed files.

4) Bring the state into compliance with the current records retention guidelines by securely destroying non-permanent records.

Cynthia Laframboise, State Archives Manager, is the Project Manager for the grant. She can be reached at [email protected] or 775-684-3319. The project is expected to end December 31, 2024.