With only three institutions to hold female convicts, Fritz Schlottman of the Nevada Department of Corrections says programs have become more important than ever.
Nevada has only one women's prison - located in North Las Vegas and capable of housing between 500 and 600 inmates.
In addition, the state operates two conservation camps for female inmates - at Jean in the south and Silver Springs about 45 minutes east of Carson City along Highway 50.
Southern Nevada Women's Correctional Center is near capacity, he said, pushing less dangerous inmates to the camps. But Schlottman said the female population has grown by double digits for the past few years and Nevada is running out of space.
He said that makes educational, substance, temper management and job skills programs for women inmates vital.
Fortunately, he said, those programs seem to take better with the women than men. He said fewer female inmates commit new crimes after release than men. He said many of them have an incentive often lacking in male inmates - the desire to reunite with their children when they get out.
But he said diversion programs, particularly for alcohol and drug abuse, "must be working because we're not seeing them back."
Lawmakers agreed last session to continue funding for a number of programs including "Evolve," a substance abuse program at the women's prison in North Las Vegas.
But he said the department operates a variety of programs designed to help women avoid returning to the criminal lifestyle that landed them in prison.
"The programs are important because if we do nothing but warehouse them, the problem is not going to go away."