LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A federal judge ruled Nevada prison officials violated an inmate’s rights and issued an order mandating outdoor time — he has since claimed prison officials are disobeying that order.
Jesse Aron Ross, 40, filed a civil rights complaint in June 2022 from High Desert State Prison, which is a 45-minute drive north of Las Vegas. Ross argued that he received inadequate access to outdoor exercise mainly as a result of modified program operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Modified program operations consisted of 20-24 hours of forced cell confinement for days, weeks or months, closed direct access to the prison law library, and eliminated access to outdoor exercise for up to six months straight at one point, according to Ross. Ross also claimed that he gained more than 80 pounds and that his anxiety and depression worsened.
“From March 18, 2020, to Jan. 1, 2021, plaintiff received a total of less than 20 hours of outdoor exercise,” Ross wrote in the complaint.
In an order issued in March, U.S. District Judge Cristina Silva wrote Ross did not receive an adequate amount of exercise time which resulted in a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. She mandated seven hours of outdoor exercise per week for Ross.
Judge Silva also addressed the frequent lockdowns.
“The defendants have not provided a reasonable justification for months’ worth of lockdowns,” she stated in the order.
The associate warden of High Desert State Prison could not confirm whether inmates received at least two hours of exercise each week during 2022, she was not prepared to discuss any specific time period and she stated that the staff was overworked, did not want to work weekends and excessively called out of work, Silva wrote in the order.
Since the order was issued, Ross complained that he was not receiving access to the outdoor time that prison officials were ordered to provide. In response, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, which represents the Department of Corrections, stated that the prison has had to implement modified operations due to critically low staffing shortages.
Ross is scheduled to appear back in federal court in June.
Ross is serving a life sentence for being a habitual offender, according to the Department of Corrections. He began serving his sentence in 2011 after a conviction in Nye County for statutory sexual seduction, open or gross lewdness, and sexual assault of a child under 16 years of age. Ross filed an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction in 2014.
Numerous inmates inside Nevada prisons have reached out to the 8 News Now Investigators with claims that their rights have been violated pointing to regular lockdowns, a lack of outdoor time and formal complaints being ignored.
Staffing has been at crisis levels. Correctional officer pay is significantly below what neighboring law enforcement agencies offer.