Ask why parole gets delayed in Nevada and you’ll get multiple answers

Ask Nevada officials why prisoners who have been granted parole are still behind bars, and they’ll say prisoners are refusing to leave.

Ask to see the state’s statistics on the problem, and the numbers will contradict that claim.

Ask the prisoners why they’re still in prison, and they’ll say it’s a matter of being too poor to pay what’s required to get out.

Lawmakers and a top judge agree the state would benefit from digging into the issue. But how seriously the agencies involved take the matter remains to be seen.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada released a report on May 21 calling the state’s parole system — which last year averaged a backlog of 365 inmates — broken and in need of immediate action. The report followed a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation that found inmates are often granted parole but not released due to a process that keeps poor prisoners behind bars at a cost to taxpayers of some $4 million a year.

Nevada officials have rallied behind an explanation that’s contradicted by the state’s own numbers for why prisoners the state has paroled are still in prison: The criminals are refusing to leave.

But the Parole Board’s statistics for April show fewer than one in five inmates in the backlog refuse to leave Nevada’s prison system, which is the target of lawsuits alleging that an inmate had to rip out infected teeth in lieu of medical care and that guards put prisoners in a “gladiator-like scenario” and shot them.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who signed a bill to study the system into law but hadn’t spoken publicly on the ACLU’s report, broke his silence Thursday — sort of. He reiterated state officials’ view that some parolees simply don’t want to get out of jail.

“There are folks who don’t want to be released,” Sandoval told the Review-Journal. “There are folks who can’t put together or don’t have the ability to put together an appropriate plan for their release. There are some who have committed offenses — sex offenders and such — where you have to be careful about their release plan.”

He didn’t elaborate on whether or how the state might plan to help those parolees who don’t have an ability to produce a state-mandated release plan.

In a statement issued late Friday, a Sandoval spokeswoman said the state assists parolees with their release plans in compliance with state law.

“The state has no interest in unnecessarily delaying any release,” spokeswoman Mari St. Martin wrote in an email to the Review-Journal. “Currently, the state does assist pending parolees on a case-by-case basis as determined by their individual needs with preparing an acceptable supervision plan in order to help them expedite their release.”

All the prisoners who told the ACLU they refused parole — 20 percent of the 43 surveyed — did so because of how challenging it was to create a plan to get out. The ACLU sent its survey to 75 parole-eligible inmates, some who had been granted parole but remained locked up and some who were waiting for parole to be granted.

Martin Horn, a criminal justice lecturer at City University of New York, said in an earlier Review-Journal article that hurdles and requirements to pay for a halfway house discriminated against the poorest and illiterate inmates.

“Prisoners don’t want to be in prison, and it’s a mistake to think they do,” said Horn, who has worked in Pennsylvania and New York corrections systems for more than 45 years. To fix the problem, he said the governor had to “knock heads.”

It doesn’t look like Sandoval has plans to knock heads any time soon. Before Thursday, he’d tried to dodge commenting on the issue, releasing a statement through a spokeswoman only after media pressure.

EXAMPLES TO FOLLOW

Nevada isn’t the only state that has battled parole problems.

But as Horn pointed out, there is little national data about the problem.

New Mexico is battling a backlog that it has reduced by changing rules. Now inmates are punished for not participating in the parole release plan process, spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said.

If inmates are just trying to serve their whole sentence in order to dodge supervision by not working on their plans, their credit for good time served will be taken away.

Other measures New Mexico has taken include starting on inmates’ plans from the day they get to prison and having a cut of the money inmates earn from a craft fair automatically funneled into a nest egg for their release.

The parole backlog there now hovers around 200. In December 2013, it was at 319.

ACLU of Nevada Director Tod Story said it sounded like New Mexico was managing its program in a way that inmates would be aware and held accountable for their plans rather than being left to figure it out on their own, which is what appears to be happening in Nevada.

Story took issue with the idea that inmates are choosing to stay in prison.

“It’s not that they are choosing to stay, it’s that they are giving up because the system has denied them over and over again,” Story said.

ACLU of Nevada Legal Director Amy Rose said she’s just trying to sort out why state officials seem to think prisoners don’t want to leave when evidence — including the organization’s own study — says otherwise.

“Even if we accept their premise as true, that’s a problem that people want to stay in prison,” Rose said. “What’s going on that that’s somehow acceptable? That shouldn’t be something that’s occurring, either.”

‘RIDICULOUS’ ISSUE

Steve Yeager, lobbyist for the Clark County Public Defender, said he felt the state needed to dig into how it categorizes refusals and look at why inmates were refusing. Yeager said he wanted to know how it was that inmates would be cooperating enough to be granted parole in the first place, but then refusing to leave somewhere down the line.

“I think people’s reaction kind of tells you how ridiculous the whole issue is. If you’re paroled you’re released.” Yeager said. “Why would you parole someone and then not release them?”

Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn has said his office regularly gets calls for inmates asking for help with this issue, but there isn’t much to be done because they are no longer clients.

“I just wish I had a better idea of how some of this stuff works because once they go to prison it’s kind of this black hole,” Yeager said.

He said clients ask him all the time about what their fate will be and that parole is a big part of a person’s decision to take a plea deal.

If word gets out that a person can do everything that’s expected of them and stay in prison because they can’t pay for a halfway house, he said, people will be more hesitant to take a plea deal.

Parole and Probation Chief Natalie Wood said her staff works diligently to aid those who need help with a release plan, pointing to dozens of caseworkers and re-entry specialists the state employs to help aid parolees’ transition out of prison.

She couldn’t say why more than two-thirds of respondents to the ACLU’s survey reported they had received little or no help from those staffers in finding a way out of prison. Wood said she “disagreed” with that report’s methodology and offered no further comment on its findings.

Wood also declined comment on the governor’s assertion that some parolees didn’t have the ability to complete a release plan.

Many of those releases are contingent upon a parolee’s access to housing, which Wood said is often not available by the time her division approves a submitted release plan.

She conceded it was “a good question” as to whether state legislators ought to remove residency requirements from the checklist of items division officials are required to approve ahead of a parolee’s release.

State parole board chair Connie Bisbee has also expressed doubts over the ACLU report’s methodology, without specifically challenging the organization’s conclusions.

Reached for comment Wednesday, Bisbee said she “may have misspoke” last week when she indicated that only about 6 percent of Nevada parolees refuse parole.

She said a count of April’s backlog indicates about 16 percent of parolees stuck behind bars are there by choice, a little under one-half the total held up while reworking a plan deemed unsuitable by parole officials.

Bisbee estimated nearly 100 percent of the total who chose to stay locked up did so because they didn’t want to leave prison under parole division supervision.

Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice James Hardesty agreed such cases are in the mix of parolees still behind bars, but declined to speculate on how many might fall into that category.

He described the backlog as if it were a hydra — the type of problem that doesn’t die if you merely lop off one of its heads.

“Some of it is housing, some of it is programming, some of it is having sufficient resources and some of it is access to employment,” Hardesty said.

“I think it would be helpful for the Legislature and the executive branch to look at that.”

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, a longtime appointee to the state’s Advisory Committee on the Administration of Justice, expects the upcoming legislative committee study will take dead aim at each of those parole system shortcomings. That study was passed into law early this month under Senate Bill 449.

Segerblom, Hardesty and 15 other committee members are set to wrap up the parole system inquiry by Sept. 1 2016.

“It’s tough to see why an inmate wouldn’t cooperate (with parole officials) if they want to get out early,” said Segerblom, D-Las Vegas. “You don’t want to point fingers at yourself or your people, but we have to realize we have a dysfunctional system.”

Reporter Neal Morton contributed to this story. Contact Bethany Barnes at bbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Find her on Twitter: @betsbarnes. Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven.

Roothless and Toohless: Guards ignored cries of pain so Nevada inmate removed his own teeth

Michael Sanzo’s pleas for help are documented on his numerous requests for medical attention at High Desert State Prison, including an emergency grievance form he filled out on the morning of Oct. 9, 2012.

On that date, Sanzo again sought treatment for his bad bottom teeth, which were moving back and forth “like piano keys.”

“I can barely take the pain any longer,” the inmate wrote. “I can barely eat, I can’t sleep at night.”

But for Sanzo, the answer was always the same: Wait your turn.

So he took matters into his own hands, according to a lawsuit he later filed against Nevada prison officials.

“Due to the unbearable pain that the plaintiff endured, despite his repeated and desperate cries for help, the plaintiff was forced to smash out his teeth by punching himself in the face, other macabre means, and pulling the teeth out,” according to an amended complaint filed April 16.

The document claims Sanzo, now 47, suffered for eight months while in solitary confinement at the prison near Indian Springs. It claims he removed a total of six teeth and even attempted suicide by asphyxiation with his bed sheet.

According to the lawsuit, the pain was so extreme in September and October 2012 that Sanzo could not sleep, had trouble eating, continued to suffer from feverish sweats and “had lost complete control over his bowel movements.”

“I was in there begging for my life,” Sanzo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a recent phone interview. He was released from prison in March 2014 and now lives in Reno.

Affidavits from two fellow inmates support his claims. One man reported being “haunted” by Sanzo’s screams of pain and “ghostly moans.”

“They would not even give him a aspirin for his pain,” another wrote.

The lawsuit accuses prison officials of violating Sanzo’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by depriving him of treatment for his infected and abscessed gums and teeth.

Within days of his transfer to Ely State Prison in November 2012, Sanzo “was able to see a dental professional to have his needs addressed,” according to his lawsuit.

“I got some nice choppers now,” Sanzo said during the recent interview. “I got false teeth.”

Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Johnson, who represents the defendants in the case, said only that the attorney general’s policy is not to comment on pending litigation.

But Johnson recently filed a motion for summary judgment, asking for a ruling in favor of the defendants before the case goes to trial. According to the motion, Sanzo was seen by a nurse or doctor “at least four times” between June 29, 2012, and Oct. 4, 2012.

“Several times plaintiff was seen by medical and only complained of scalp issues with no mention of dental problems,” Johnson wrote.

A jury trial is scheduled for June 29 in Reno.

PRISONERS FACE ‘INHERENT BIAS’

Sanzo relied on a “jailhouse lawyer” — a prisoner who assists other inmates with legal matters — to help open his civil case in January 2014.

“I just want to be heard,” Sanzo told the Review-Journal.

He said he contacted hundreds of licensed attorneys after his release from prison, but no one wanted to represent him until he found Reno attorney Luke Busby, who took up the case in April 2014 and filed an amended complaint. Busby, who has been in private practice since 2010, said this is the first time he has represented a prisoner in a civil case.

“I don’t as a matter of course take these cases,” he said.

Busby said the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a 1996 federal law, was designed to reduce frivolous lawsuits filed by prisoners but also reduced the potential for the recovery of attorney fees that are typically available in other types of civil rights cases.

“I don’t think there are many attorneys who will take these kinds of cases, because it’s not a good business proposition,” Busby said.

He said such cases also are difficult to win “because of the inherent bias people have against prisoners.”

“The perception in the public is prisoners are often suing because they got the wrong color of toothbrush or something like that,” the lawyer said.

But inhibiting the ability of prisoners to bring civil rights cases creates “a lack of accountability for serious civil rights violations when they occur,” he argued.

Busby said he decided to meet Sanzo “on a whim” after another lawyer sent the ex-prisoner to him.

“I felt he had a valid claim under the law,” Busby said.

He said the Eighth Amendment may not be the “most glamorous” amendment to the Constitution, “but it’s fundamental” in a civilized society and must be enforced.

“It can’t just be aspirational,” he said.

Medical care in the Nevada prison system has come under scrutiny in the past. In 2008, for example, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada filed a class action lawsuit against the state that contended Ely State Prison inmates were receiving inadequate medical care.

The lawsuit led to the placement of an independent monitor at the prison to ensure that medical services were being provided in a constitutional way. And the ACLU of Nevada received $325,000 in legal fees when the case settled in 2010.

Busby said Sanzo’s treatment at the Ely prison “was really pretty good.”

According to information provided by the Corrections Department, the Ely prison has about 36 medical positions and an inmate capacity of 1,183. High Desert has about 64 medical positions and an inmate capacity of 4,176.

Sanzo said he has spent a total of 18 years behind bars, and he estimates he spent 11 years of that time in solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons.

His record includes crimes such as obtaining money under false pretenses and drug trafficking. He admits he once struggled with a methamphetamine addiction but said he hasn’t used any illegal drugs for six years.

Sanzo said he received his most recent prison term — four to 10 years — after pleading guilty to possession of a stolen vehicle and possession of a controlled substance. He served more than five years of the sentence.

SLOW RESPONSE ALLEGED

According to his lawsuit, Sanzo injured his teeth in March 2012 and reported the injury to a prison nurse, “who assured him that his teeth would be taken care of shortly.”

Sanzo reported that he fell while playing basketball, but the defendants contend he was involved in a fight during yard time. The incident led to Sanzo’s placement in solitary confinement. He pleaded guilty to a charge of fighting in April 2012, according to the defense motion for summary judgment.

Records indicate that Sanzo sent his first medical “kite” — written request from an inmate — for dental treatment on July 31, 2012. It reads, “4 of my bottom teeth are ready to fall out — they are like ‘weeble wobbles’ I can’t eat barley — and I’m in bad pain — please hurry I need them pulled.”

The kite came back two days later with a stamped response from dental assistant Colette Ball: “When your name comes up on the list we’ll see you.”

Other kites received similar responses from Ball, now a defendant in the lawsuit. Bruce Bannister, medical director for the Corrections Department, also is named as a defendant.

Sanzo sent his sixth and final request on Oct. 25, 2012, when he wrote, “I have had to cry myself to sleep in such pain! I have had to pull 6 of my own teeth cause the pain is sooooo unbearable — It’s been 3 months now — please help me.”

Ball sent a handwritten response six days later. It began, “As I have explained before Mr. Sanzo you are in a lockdown unit. You are seen 1 at a time and share you (sic) time slot with 3 other lockdown units. We see everyone by order of their kite this being firm, fair, and consistant (sic).”

The note concluded, “You need to look at the big picture. A lot of inmates here.”

While Ball’s response “might sound callous,” according to the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, “it is not enough to establish deliberate in­difference.”

Sanzo “cannot demonstrate that her conduct rises to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation,” the motion alleges.

According to an attached declaration from Ball, only medical staff go to the units to see inmates.

“I do not recall seeing any notation or requests from medical stating that Mr. Sanzo had an infection requiring priority treatment,” she wrote.

Sanzo said he smuggled his extracted teeth, minus one that fell in the toilet, out of prison to use as evidence in his case.

He has been “couch surfing” since his release from prison, often staying with his girlfriend or in a friend’s car, and he has struggled to maintain employment. A recent letter from his psychiatrist indicates that Sanzo suffers from bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and “is unable to work.”

But Sanzo said he is determined not to return to prison.

“This is the longest I’ve ever been out.”

Contact Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.

Plan to hire 100 Nevada correctional officers moves forward

nevada is a police stateCARSON CITY — A legislative panel Thursday endorsed a $7.6 million spending plan to hire 100 additional correctional officers at the Nevada Department of Corrections.

The funding recommended by a joint Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means subcommittee is included in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $7.4 billion two-year budget.

As part of approval, legislators said they want the department to provide quarterly updates on prison staff vacancies to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

The department’s overall budget is roughly $580 million over the biennium.

Personnel vacancies at Nevada’s remote prisons is a chronic problem, with 115 positions currently open. Ely State Prison, the state’s maximum security penitentiary where death row inmates are housed, is down 55 positions, or 20 percent. High Desert Prison and Southern Desert Correctional Center in Southern Nevada have 17 and 14 vacancies, respectively.

Adding personnel comes with updating a shift-relief formula used to ensure there is enough staff to cover vacations and other absences. Nevada’s formula has been in place since 1979.

“It’s a big deal,” Corrections Director Greg Cox said after the hearing, noting he doesn’t recall ever receiving approval for such a large staff increase.

Cox added the department has been stepping up recruitment and targeting former military personnel, with emphasis on areas in other states where prisons have closed.

“We’ve been very successful doing that,” he said.

At remote rural facilities such as Carlin and Humboldt conservation camps where vacancies are especially hard to fill because of a lack of housing, the department has developed recreational vehicle spaces. DOC also plans to create five RV spaces at Ely State Prison and to prepare infrastructure for five more.

Kevin Ranft, a representative of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041, hailed the committee’s recommendation to add officers and update the shift-relief factor.

“Providing these positions is going to save lives,” Ranft said.

To streamline hiring, the department last year expanded a correctional trainee program, where new hires begin work almost immediately and “shadow” correctional officers for up to one year before they attend required Peace Officers Standards Training.

Trainees are not allowed to handle keys or weapons and department officials said the program gives new hires a chance to see what the job entails before money is spent on further training.

Mother claims son’s vision deteriorates as prison denies him medical care

Kelly Richards said her son will be blind for life if Nevada Department of Corrections officials continue to deny him the medical care he needs.

Inmate Rashaad Williams, 24, sustained eye injuries from birdshot in a shotgun during a prison brawl in which he was not involved.

Richards said her son has been denied medical care that could save his sight, visits by an attorney and contact with his family since he was admitted to the hospital.

The department categorically denied the allegations.

Williams was transferred to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center from the William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely, the department said last week. Richards said she was told about the incident 48 hours after the April 21 brawl and that her son was a bystander and complied with guards’ orders before he was shot in the face.

Richards said her son had to wait several hours before he received proper medical attention.

The department said in a release last week that Williams was provided on-site medical care before he was taken to the hospital.

“My main concern is my son’s health,” Richards said.

Richards said that her repeated calls to department and hospital officials have gone unanswered. An ophthalmologist, however, told her the hospital didn’t have the specialized equipment needed to fully explore her son’s medical options.

“They’re just basically like, ‘You’re blind. Go back to prison.’ They didn’t even do all the tests,” she said, adding that her family has even offered to cover the costs of a second opinion and a specialist.

The department called Richards’ claims inaccurate. Spokesman Brian Connett said Williams has had the chance to see an ophthalmologist and would be allowed to see a specialist if a doctor ordered it.

“He’s getting the medical care that the hospital is determining, not the department of corrections,” he said.

But medical care is only the first of Richards’ complaints, which she described as civil rights violations.

She said that the family has been interviewing different attorneys and that prison officials would not let a lawyer visit Williams at the hospital — a claim that Connett also denied.

Henderson attorney Alexis Plunkett confirmed that the department refused to allow Williams legal visits. She said she was turned away by hospital and prison officials, a move she believes is intended to “isolate the victim.”

Richards also said the prison said she could talk to her son every other day while he was in the hospital, and corrections officials broke that promise. She said calls every morning mostly go unreturned.

Connett also denied that claim, saying the department has gone beyond accommodations normally made to prisoners.

“She talked to him at least twice,” he said.

One of the saddest parts of the story, Richards said, is that her son likely was going to be released in the next few months.

Williams, legally named Stacey Michael Richards, pleaded guilty to a robbery charge in 2012 and faced a minimum sentence of 2½ years, according to Clark County court records.

Richards said her son was moved from facility to facility, but as a nonviolent offender, he never should have been placed in a maximum security prison.

Richards, who lives in Southern California, said she could not make it to Nevada for the court proceedings, but her understanding is that her son basically stole a cellphone.

“I’m just a mother,” she said. “I understand he made a mistake and had to pay his debt to society. He was well on his way to get out.”

“All (the prison) says is ‘I’m sorry.’ They just want to sweep it under the rug.”

About eight other inmates also were injured by the shotgun blast, corrections officials said in a release Wednesday night, but their injuries were described as minor. The inmates were treated by prison medical staff and declined further treatment, the department said.

The incident began when four prisoners attacked one inmate during “open tier time,” the department said. Officers gave verbal commands to stop fighting and get on the floor, and all of the prisoners complied except two who kept fighting.

After additional commands by the officer to cease fighting, an officer fired a blank warning shot and then shot a shell consisting of birdshot in the direction of the two fighters, which the department said is in accordance with their policy.

Contact Wesley Juhl at wjuhl@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0391. Find him on Twitter: @WesJuhl.

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Deadly Nevada prison brawl stokes mystery about corrupt guards, guns and murder

jail bloodLAS VEGAS (AP) — When two handcuffed inmates at one of Nevada’s toughest prisons brawled in a hallway, one ended up dead from several shotgun blasts. The other was declared guilty of murder, even though he never touched a gun.

Prison officials acknowledged the death in November with only a short statement, and for months they never mentioned that a weapon was involved or that it had been fired by a trainee guard.

Since then, the mystery of the shooting near the showers in a segregation unit at High Desert State Prison has only deepened.

Now attorneys for both inmates are accusing prison guards of instigating the fight to set up a gladiator-style contest and then trying to cover it up by blaming the surviving prisoner.

Prison officials have been slow to release details.

The Nevada prison where a handcuffed inmate was killed by a guard with a shotgun has an unusually high number of incidents of corrections officers firing guns, despite the vast majority of lockups nationwide not allowing anyone to even carry guns.

Crime Scene Body Outline.jpg-500x400LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Nevada prison where a handcuffed inmate was killed by a guard with a shotgun has an unusually high number of incidents of corrections officers firing guns, despite the vast majority of lockups nationwide not allowing anyone to even carry guns.

Between 2007 and 2011, Nevada Department of Corrections statistics show shots were fired by High Desert State Prison guards more than any other type of force, except for using their hands. Guards fired guns 215 times between 2007 and 2011. That includes 60 shots in 2011 — the most recent year figures were available. A baton or taser appear to have never been used.

Nevada Department of Corrections says it doesn’t comment on pending investigations and didn’t answer questions about its use of force and weapons policies.

Coroner: Nevada state prison inmate died of multiple shots

// Crime Scene Body Outline.jpg-500x400Coroner: Nevada state prison inmate died of multiple shots | NevadaAppeal.com

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LAS VEGAS — The revelation that a Nevada state prison inmate died of multiple gunshots more than four months ago, and a ruling that his death was a homicide is making waves in Carson City.

Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy said Wednesday in Las Vegas that 28-year-old Carlos Manuel Perez Jr. died Nov. 12, 2014, at High Desert State Prison of multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest and arms.

The death was ruled a homicide.

There was no immediate word about who was involved in the shooting, whether anyone else was hurt, or whether any prison officials were involved.

Prisons officials didn’t immediately respond to messages.

Spokeswomen for Gov. Brian Sandoval and state Attorney General Adam Laxalt say an investigation is ongoing

A growing prison population, reduced federal grants, aging facilities and inmate hospital care are taxing the Nevada Department of Corrections and will be the focus of budget discussions during the upcoming legislative session, prison officials said Tuesday.

CARSON CITY — A growing prison population, reduced federal grants, aging facilities and inmate hospital care are taxing the Nevada Department of Corrections and will be the focus of budget discussions during the upcoming legislative session, prison officials said Tuesday.

Greg Cox, corrections director, told members of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees that more staff and facility maintenance are priorities for the upcoming biennium.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget includes funding to hire about 100 additional correctional officers, at a cost of $7.5 million, based on a study by the Association of State Correctional Administrators.

“We’re at minimum staffing,” Cox told lawmakers. “I really think and believe we’re asking for something we’ve desperately needed for years.”

He added, “It’s a tough job, folks.”

Nevada’s average prison population of 12,739 in 2014 is projected to increase to 12,882 over the next two years. Cox warned that trying to forecast inmate population growth is tricky but that often it matches the pace of growth in the state’s general population, as seen when Nevada boomed in 2007 before declining during the recession when people left the state to find jobs elsewhere.

“One thing that’s clear, we’re starting to grow again. Certainly I hope the forecast is going to be accurate,” Cox said.

In 2013, Nevada had 5,753 inmate admissions. Of those, 3,113 or 54 percent were new to the system; 23 percent were probation violators; and 16 percent were parole violators.

Southern Nevada Correctional Center, closed since 2007, is available if more beds are necessary but would carry a hefty price tag of $46 million to reopen and operate for two years, Cox said.

Sandoval’s proposed $7.3 billion general fund budget includes $632 million for public safety, with a large chunk of that for corrections.

Besides general inmate population growth, officials say the number of female inmates is pushing the limit on available beds. “We do have beds but will require staff to open those beds,” Cox said.

The percentage of maximum- and medium-security inmates also is increasing, which means higher costs.

Another big cost factor is inmate hospitalization. Cox said Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center in Carson City is refusing to take inmates under Medicaid except emergency cases, forcing the state prisons in Nevada’s capital city to take those prisoners to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno 30 miles away.

Under the federal health care law, inmates who require hospitalization for 24 hours or more are deemed to be Medicaid-eligible. Hospitals are re­imbursed just a small fraction of their actual costs, a factor noted by state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

“If the hospital can’t make money nobody in the community gets health care,” Kieckhefer said. “The bottom line is we don’t pay a decent Medicaid rate for them to have 20 percent of their patients on Medicaid.”

Ed Epperson, president and CEO of Carson Tahoe Health, echoed Kieckhefer’s observation in a statement late Tuesday. He said the Department of Corrections previously covered inmates through a private insurer, but under the Affordable Care Act switched them to Medicaid, a move the state said would save $5 million.

“In reality it was shifting the cost of inmate health care to hospitals and the federal government,” Epperson said. “Our small community cannot bear the medical care cost of the state’s prison system, only receiving reimbursement for a mere 10 percent of charges.”

Corrections officials Tuesday also said they will ask lawmakers to rein in public records requests filed by inmates.

“We have inmates asking for other inmate records,” Cox said. Others have asked for facility staffing records, details on meals served in recent years and the number of copies made on a particular copy machine.

“A lot of inmate requests are just for harassment,” Deputy Director Scott Sisco told reporters.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

PRISON PLANET: 100 more Nevada correctional officers ‘badly needed’

nevada is a police stateLawmakers were told Tuesday the Nevada Department of Corrections badly needs the 100 additional correctional officers the governor has proposed adding to ensure adequate staffing at Nevada’s prisons.

Director Greg Cox told the combined Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees unlike most other state agencies prisons can’t just shut down a staff post if someone is on vacation, sick or off duty.

“This has nothing to do with the prison population,” Cox said. “This has to do with what our staff needs to operate.”

He said the recommendation to add 100 officers came from an interim study by eight corrections professionals from around the country plus a couple of Nevadans with extensive knowledge of corrections, including former director Bob Bayer.

But Cox said after the hearing that study actually recommended adding nearly 500 officers to the system. He said the 100 would give his department enough staff to ensure the system remains safe and secure.

Deputy Director E.K. McDaniel told the panel the “relief factor” that sets staffing hasn’t been updated since 1979. He said since then, two more state holidays have been added and laws like the Family Medical Leave Act have been passed increasing the burden on staffing issues.

The department isn’t asking for 500 more officers.

“We’re asking to do this in increments,” McDaniel said.

He and Cox said the problem is when staffing is inadequate, existing posts actually do have to be shut down, creating potential problems in the different prisons.

The added staff would cost the state $1.8 million to add 45 employees in 2016 and a total of more than $5.7 million in 2017 to hire another 55, a total of about $7.6 million over the biennium.

The proposed corrections budget also includes more than $800,000 to build an execution chamber at Ely State Prison. The old death chamber, Cox said, is still operable in Carson City but it makes much more sense to have the chamber in Ely where Nevada’s death row inmates are actually housed. Since Nevada State Prison was shut down, handling inmates facing death sentence has become even more of a problem at the Carson City prison.

Nearly 90 percent of the more than $360 million in the corrections budget is state General Fund money.

Nevada prison system announces 2 more inmate deaths

Nevada medical chief gives OK to state prisons food

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s correctional institutions are all up-to-date on inspections for cleanliness and safety as well as diet and food preparation, the state’s chief medical officer said Thursday.

“These inspections review prisoner diets to ensure specialized diets are available to patients, for example low-sodium diets/menus are available for prisoners with cardiac disease,” said Dr. Tracey Green, chief medical officer for the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health.

“The chief medical officer has not identified any concerns to include in her reports to the Board of Prison Commissioners.”

Green’s statement came a week after a panel of the Nevada Supreme Court reversed a district court and ordered it to compel the state’s chief medical officer to examine and report on the nutritional adequacy of the diet of prison inmates as required by state law.

The case was brought by Robert Leslie Stockmeier, an inmate at Lovelock Correctional Center in Northern Nevada, who said Green was not fulfilling her duties to review inmate diets and report her findings to the state prisons board.

A Carson City District Court dismissed Stockmeier’s case, but a three-member panel of the Supreme Court reversed that decision, finding that Green’s examination of inmate diets and her resulting report to the board “fell well short of what was required.”

Green said the inspections are up-to-date from fiscal years 2011 to 2014 from the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance under her direction, including sanitation, healthfulness, cleanliness and safety.

“Going forward, HCQC plans to better document how the review takes place,” she said in response to the court ruling. “In the past, records would only reflect deficient practices rather than demonstrate areas of compliance.”

Green said she will continue to comply with law and any additional direction from the District Court.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

Nevada Justices order study of Nevada prison diets

CARSON CITY — A panel of the Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower district court and ordered it to compel the state’s chief medical officer to examine and report on the nutritional adequacy of the diet of prison inmates as required by state law.

The case was brought by Robert Leslie Stockmeier, an inmate at Lovelock Correctional Center in Northern Nevada, who said state Health Officer Tracey Green was not fulfilling her duties to review inmate diets and report her findings to the state Board of Prison Commissioners.

A Carson City District Court dismissed Stockmeier’s case, but a three-member panel of the Supreme Court reversed that decision, finding that Green’s examination of inmate diets and her resulting report to the board “fell well short of what was required.”

Green’s report included no analysis of the diets of general population inmates, addressed diets at only one of Nevada’s correctional facilities, and generally lacked any indication as to how the required examination was conducted, said Justice Michael Cherry in the decision.

The court said Green relied on a single 2011 report to support her position that she complied with the law, but Cherry said that report undermined her position.

“Green’s report primarily focuses on issues other than inmate diets, and the limited materials included in the report regarding this subject provide no information on, or analysis of, the nutritional adequacy of the general population diets,” the decision said.

“Indeed, there is nothing in the report to even indicate that Green or her staff actually examined the diets served to the general inmate population,” Cherry said.

“The report’s only reference to general population diets is a notation regarding the Lovelock Correctional Center indicating that a dietitian ‘had never been to the (Lovelock) correctional center and (had) only reviewed menus for nutritional adequacy.’”

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

Prison Labor in Nevada

Prison Labor expert Robert Sloan is interviewed in Las Vegas re the abuses of prison labor in Nevada. There will be a story on http://www.vltp.net to accompany this video.

Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place

by Bob Sloan

silver state industries

Following a full year of investigating complaints and revising Nevada’s prison industry program statute(s), a new Administrative Rule (AR 854) regulating the operation of that state’s prison industry operation has been submitted to the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) by NDOC Director, Greg Cox.  In December this regulation was adopted and became effective.

Sen. Richard Bryan

In October the NDOC submitted a long list of new or amended AR’s to the BPC for approval and implementation.  At that time Cox withheld the proposed AR 854 addressing the operation of the agency’s prison industry operations.  Cox held back on this single AR by advising the Board he wanted to work with former Senator Richard Bryan on the language of that particular regulation.

On December 17th Director Cox submitted the final negotiated regulation to BPC members, Governor Sandoval, AG Masto and Secretary of State, Ross Miller for consideration.  Following approval by the Board, the new prison industry regulations are now in effect.

Cox-listens-to-testimony-crop

Critics and opponents of the prison industry program have now adopted a position of “monitoring” the state’s prison industry program. They’re doing so in an effort of ensuring there are no further infringements upon Nevada’s workers and businesses that compete against prison industries.  Last year it was discovered that the NDOC regulations were not being fully enforced and state statutes controlling prison industry operations were insufficient to protect both Nevada’s private sector workers and competing non-prison partnered businesses.

Alpine SteelAll of this came about after lawmakers, the media and general public learned that the prison industry program was more or less operating without any real oversight.  This allowed the NDOC to “partner” with a local Las Vegas business – Alpine Steel, LLC –  in a manner that provided that business with an unfair advantage over competitors and reduced the number of available private sector jobs.  Not only did this single business enjoy prison labor far below standard wage rates, but it also received low cost taxpayer subsidized utility costs and lease terms for state owned property that was far below the state averages. Additionally the NDOC failed to enforce most of the terms of the contract it had with Alpine, allowing the company to default on paying the salaries of NDOC staffers, prison workers and monthly lease payments or utility costs and making no effort to cure the defaults.

When this partnership was finally terminated by Governor Sandoval and the smoke cleared, the state was left with an owed debt of nearly half a million dollars.  Alpine’s owner entered into a negotiated agreement to repay the state but almost immediately defaulted, leaving taxpayers on the hook forhundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid leases, staff salaries, utility costs and owed taxes.  This failed partnership resulted in the revamping of the state’s statutes controlling Nevada’s existing prison industries and all proposed new industries.

During the lengthy legislative activities related to the failed Alpine partnership, other issues were discovered that prison labor activists are continuing to pursue at both state and federal levels.  These include the hourly wages paid to inmate workers in the program, deductions taken from prisoner paychecks and working conditions.

Nevada is a participant in a federally run program (Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program or PIECP) that encourages prison industry/private business partnerships such as the one involving Alpine.   However in order to establish and operate under such partnerships both the state and the private business must agree to abide by stringent mandatory conditions required by the federal government.  Two of the imposed mandatory requirements are that inmates be paid prevailing wages and that the state can only take approved deductions from those wages.  In the case of Alpine, the contract with the state required that inmate workers receive “prevailing wages” (section 8.6) or the same wage paid to private sector workers performing the same duties on the outside.  Instead, the NDOC and Alpine set the inmate wage rate at or below the state minimum wage scale, exploiting the labor of inmate workers and further enriching Alpine.

Subsequently it now appears Nevada is underpaying inmates working in the federal program andtaking an unapproved deduction of 5% to fund new prison industry operations.  In effect Nevada’s inmate workforce are being made to fund operating expenses of the prison industry out of their already meager wages.

DD ConnettPrison labor advocates are attempting to work with the NDOC, Nevada authorities and the responsible federal agency to cure any purported violations regarding the PIECP program to ensure Nevada is in full compliance with current state and federal provisions regarding the use of inmate labor.

Currently the Deputy Director of the NDOC’s Prison Industry, Brian Connett has indicated there are no proposed new industries being considered by the agency. However prior to the furor caused by the Alpine situation, Connett was advocating for a new industry in Nevada operated by a California company. The operation would have used inmate labor at minimum wages to sort through collected trash and remove recyclables. The collection of trash and refuse across the state would have been accomplished by the same California company.  This project was moving forward over objections voiced by the labor representative of the Senate’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs, Mr. Mike Magnani.  This recycling “industry” was tabled once the Legislature began looking into the prison industry operations.

CONWAY ROBERT PDBusinesses and a second labor representative, Rob Conway now sitting upon the legislative Interim Finance Committee will continue to monitor activities of the prison industry to eliminate the possibility of another situation arising that could jeopardize business owners or private workers.  Additionally the amended statute requires the Board of Prison Commissioners to review and approve any new industries or expansion of existing ones.  Hopefully vigilance by the labor representatives will keep the prison industries and expanded partnerships in check and allow more of Nevada’s unemployed to find employment due to the reduction in new prison labor programs that eliminated positions in the past.

Only time will tell if the new regulations prevent another Alpine-styled incident from reoccurring.

3rd Nevada inmate in a week dies in custody

3rd Nevada inmate in a week dies in custody

An inmate who was denied cataract surgery by the Nevada Department of Corrections and won an appeals court ruling about it died this week, the Nevada Department of Corrections reported Wednesday.

John Colwell, 67, died at High Desert State Prison from what corrections officials called a chronic medical condition. His death was the third inmate death reported in a week by the state.

Colwell was serving multiple life sentences for first-degree murder and kidnapping. He was also serving 15 years each for robbery and the use of a deadly weapon.

While he was in prison, the man’s treating doctors recommended surgery for his cataract problems years ago but the department of correction’s “one eye policy,” which allowed them to deny him treatment because he has a single functional eye.

According to court records, Colwell developed cataracts in both eyes. He had injured himself several times because of this, including running his hand through a sewing machine and splitting open his forehead on aconcrete block.

Colwell had been in the Nevada prison system since 1991.

Contact reporter Annalise Little at alittle@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0391. Find her on Twitter: @annalisemlittle.

Block on Nevada prison’s legal news delivery spurs suit

Prison Legal News

Claims that Nevada prison officials are improperly banning legal rights publications mailed to Nevada inmates have drawn a First Amendment lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Reno accuses the Nevada Department of Corrections of improperly using a restriction on mail with address labels and envelope tape as a pretext to confiscate and discard copies of Prison Legal News sent to prisoners. DOC

“The First Amendment does not end at the prison door,” ACLU Legal Director Staci Pratt told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Censorship of legal materials through the establishment of arbitrary procedural roadblocks does not comport with the Nevada Department of Corrections’ constitutional obligations.”

Prison Legal News aims to protect inmate legal rights and educate prisoners on various issues.

The ACLU official said the issue goes beyond one publication to encompass the constitutional rights of inmates and publishers to communicate with each other.

Pratt said policies on access to materials could even affect the ability of children to send a report card or other communication to an incarcerated parent.

Officials at the Department of Corrections said they don’t comment on active lawsuits.

The Human Rights Defense Center, which publishes Prison Legal News, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit. It seeks a court finding that refusing to deliver the publication is a constitutional violation, an injunction preventing prison officials from blocking the receipt by prisoners, and unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

Pratt said ACLU officials are talking with the Nevada attorney general’s office about resolving the case.

It was filed June 28, shortly after corrections officials adopted a new temporary policy prohibiting mailed information related to security issues such as how to make weapons and sexually explicit publications.

The policy also states that inmates should have access to books through approved vendors, and it provides for an appeals process if a request is denied.

Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, said he thought the prison restrictions had no connection with legitimate security-related interests, and were being used to justify illegal censorship by prison officials.

The June issue of Prison Legal News contains a variety of articles, including a state-by-state analysis of prison closures, a report on a New York decision that county jails do not need to provide law libraries and an article titled “How the Prison-Industrial Complex Destroys Lives.”

Wright said there is no consistent, blanket ban at all institutions statewide. He said the magazine has about 50 Nevada inmate subscribers.

The problem was more related to the publication’s book list, Wright said, including such titles as “Beyond Bars, Rejoining Society After Prison” and “Criminal Law in a Nutshell.”

Books ordered by Nevada inmates are frequently sent back, and Wright said it appears to be because of hostility to the organization’s mission to help inmates improve themselves.

The publication won a judgment and settlement in 2000 after suing the Nevada Corrections Department on the issue. The state agreed at that time that prisoners would be able to subscribe to publications of their choice.

Pratt said the agency never honored the agreement.

Are Nevada State Employees Being Bullied?

RGJ Opnion

RGJ Opinion “Letter to Editor”

opinion shopThe Governor’s Office would have you believe that a joint task force between the Department of Public Safety – Division of Parole and Probation, and the Department of Corrections are working together to integrate Parole functions into the NDOC. Wrong! The task force is comprised of a select few command staff, who were blindsided and ordered to facilitate this proposed transition without opposition, despite high costs and lack of practicality.

Is the Division of Parole and Probation command staff being politically bullied to support the Governor’s proposal to transfer the Parole functions over to the Department of Corrections?

Are involved State employees being “frowned upon” for exercising their First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, in an effort to avoid embarrassing the Governor’s Office? Continue reading

Nevada State Personnel Watch gets over 10,000 hits worldwide

Our little Nevada ANTI-Corruption website has taken off and we’re celebrating our success with more updates and future demonstrations to promote the movement. We simply started the ANTI-Corruption movement as a grassroots effort with one cardboard sign and a cause to stand up to the corruption and relation in Nevada that has affected us personally.  We networked with other people who were also victims of Nevada’s web-of-corruption. See our stories – Mike Weston (Mike’s LawlessAmerica story) – Tonja BrownTy Robben (Lawless America video being produced and coming soon to expose the demonic rampant wholesale corruption in Nevada). Then there was the a new issue and cover-up by State of Nevada officials explained by Reno, NV KRNV mynews4.com NEWS. For now, please see our 2012 ANTI-Corruption Summer 2012 video.

https://nevadastatepersonnelwatch.wordpress.com

We made professional signs and a one-of-a-kind 150 long X 4 foot tall CRIME SCENE BANNER and protested in front of the Nevada State Capitol buildings in the spring and summer of 2012.  Stay tuned as NV ANTI-Corruption adapts to our new version 2.0 round of protesting and exposing corruption in Nevada. We’re also covering other Nevada, U.S. and world issues on this website to attract a wider audience to broader issues covered by Infowars, Lawless America  and others. To all united against tyranny and treason, we salute you.

Nevada ANTI-Corruption you-tube videos

NV ANTI corruption videos

Our youtube videos have also gone viral with over 50,000 hits and we’re in Lawless America the movie. Thank you for your support and please keep coming back to the NevadaStatePersonnelWATCH.wordpress.com website.

 

 

 

 

Sundance Film festival 2013 Lawless America

Sundance Film festival 2013 Lawless America

Are you aware some how Bill Windsor in all his splendor has the Lawless America the Movie Promos tied into the 2013 Sundance Film Festival? 

View here Sundance Film FestivalSUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL VIDEOS.

 

 

 

Guy Felton's youtube channel

Guy Felton’s youtube channel

Please see our friend Guy Felton’s youtube “Nevadagate” series on Nevada Corruption with links posted below in this posting. Guy has put together about 10 videos explaining his perspective on the rampant, wholesale corruption in Nevada.  Topics include Judicial Corruption, Government Corruption to include AG Masto, Gov. Sandoval and much more.  Guy goes wide and deep into the issues and calls out these corrupt and criminal politicians.

Guy Felton’s youtube “Nevadagate” series on Nevada Corruption
Nevada government is permeated with a culture of corruption. Members of the state legislature meet for only 4 months every other year. This does not permit anything close to proper administration of the public affairs of Nevada’s 2.7-million residents.  Members of the upcoming 2013 legislative session are asked to answer tough-but-fair questions which might force changes for the better.
Part 2 of at least 3 intended parts

Lawless America Movie Interview: Tonya Frances Brown for Nolan Klein. Nevada killed an innocent man

Please watch this powerful and enraging video featuring Tonja Brown, Nolan Klein’s sister, who fought and still fights hard to battle injustice done to her brother and also to fight for basic human rights of others still inside.
On Sept. 20th, please remember Nolan Klein, an innocent man who died in 2009 on that day, while still in prison, all because evidence that could have exonerated him, lay hidden and was never presented by the prosecution.

www.justicefornolanklein.net

Continue reading