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Prison staff letter to governor calls NDOC director‘s behavior erratic,’ ‘hostile,’ ‘abusive’

Nevada Department of Corrections Director Charles Daniels has been accused by state prison staff of “erratic, hostile, and abusive” behavior in the wake of two suicides by inmates this month.

A letter dated Sept. 16 was sent to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office by medical and mental health staff at High Desert State Prison and Southern Desert Correctional Center. “The Governor’s Office is in receipt of this letter and is looking into the matter,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

On Sept. 7, David Thompson, 38, of Elko County, died by hanging inside High Desert State Prison, according to the Clark County coroner’s office. Thompson’s death was ruled a suicide.

The next day, Deryl Dent, 32, of Indian Springs, died by hanging, and it was also ruled a suicide, the coroner said.

The letter alleged that the inmates died in the same unit and same pod within seven hours of each other and that medical and mental health staff were called in for an emergency meeting at 6 a.m. Sept. 9.

Daniels was an hour late to the meeting and berated staff and had them watch what the letter called an outdated documentary about mental health in corrections.

“The purpose of this meeting was clearly not to facilitate a discussion about these events or embark on a fact finding mission,” the letter read. “This was the beginning of a witch hunt and blame game.”

Daniels has been director since December 2019 and has worked in corrections for more than 30 years, according to the department’s website.

The letter alleged that Daniels “flew into a rage” at a second emergency meeting held Sept. 12, according to the letter.

“We are concerned that the way he presents himself in these meetings will drive away more employees in our already critically understaffed departments,” the letter read. “We would like to point out that after this second meeting, the medical director, Dr. Michael Minev, who we were told had also been involved in bullying his staff, resigned.”

Minev submitted his resignation on Sept. 13 and it will be effective Sept. 30, according to Nevada Department of Corrections officials.

Department spokesperson Teri Vance said Thursday that Daniels did not wish to comment.

If you’re thinking about suicide, or are worried about a friend or loved one, help is available 24/7 by calling or texting the Lifeline network at 988. Live chat is available at 988lifeline.org.

Contact David Wilson at dwilson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.

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