Board of State Prison Commissioners Nov 15, 2011

Note: the meeting was postponed.

Note: Please try to attend this meeting, and submit a comment! The Admin Rules/Regulations that will be discussed can be found in their entirety here.

Board of State Prison Commissioners
Date/Time of Meeting: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.

Meeting Location:

Guinn Room
State Capitol Building Annex
2nd floor
101 N. Carson Street
Carson City, NV

Video Conference:
Grant Sawyer State Office Bldg
East Washington Ave. 555
Room 5100
Las Vegas, NV

I. Call to Order.

II. Public Comment.

III. Acceptance and Approval of Minutes – March 8, 2011 meeting.(For Possible Action)

IV. Discussion/possible action relating to plans to implement the closure of Nevada State Prison – Greg Cox, Director. (For Possible Action)

V. Presentation & Discussion on Hospital Health Inspection Overview pursuant to NRS 209.382– Dr. Tracey Green, State Health Officer, Nevada State Health Division. (For Possible Action)

VI. Discussion/possible action regarding State Administrative Regulations (Attachment 1)- Greg Cox, Director. (For Possible Action)

VII. Board Member Comments.

VIII. Public Comment.

IX. Adjournment. (For Possible Action)

Note: Any agenda item may be taken out-of-order; items may be combined for consideration by the public body; and items may be pulled or removed from the agenda at any time. Public Comment may be limited to three minutes per speaker. Members of the public are encouraged to submit written comments for the record.

We are pleased to make reasonable accommodations for attendees with disabilities. Please notify Anne Della Rosa at (775) 684-5708. Notice of this meeting was posted in Carson City at the Nevada State Library, Nevada State Capitol Building, Nevada State Legislative Building and the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas; and
at and .

VERA: Oversight Status Report Regarding the Nevada Department of Corrections

VERA, Institute of Justice, produced this 52 page report recently, after a year of researching what could be improved within the prisons in Nevada (which would mean: a lot has to be improved, otherwise we would not exist).


Oversight Status Report Regarding the Nevada Department of Corrections:
A Report of the Corrections Support and Accountability Project
JULY 2010

The report can be read here: (PDF)

The executive summary:

The Vera Institute of Justice is pleased to present this report of the Corrections Support and Accountability Project. The Project partners us with five jurisdictions – two states and three counties – to help each partner jurisdiction develop meaningful oversight of its prisons or jails specifically tailored to its needs.

This report, and the recommendations summarized below, is the result of partnership
with and the dedication of several Nevada State agencies, including the Nevada
Department of Corrections and the Nevada Board of State Prison Commissioners, as well
as the participation of other individuals and agencies, including the Nevada Legislature, the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Secretary of State’s Office, United States District Court for the District of Nevada, American Federation of State and Municipal Employees, Nevada Corrections Association and individual inmate advocates.

In particular, this work would not have been possible without the leadership of Director Skolnik, who was incredibly accommodating and willing to open up his Department to this review. With the help of these participants we investigated the current mechanisms of correctional accountability and transparency already in place in the NDOC. This process included visits to prison facilities, numerous interviews, research, and meetings with NDOC staff and administrators and stakeholders to determine the most pressing oversight needs of Nevada’s correctional system.

At the time of this report, NDOC has made progress implementing several of these
recommendations. We believe that, with time and the cooperation of other Nevada
stakeholders, implementing the remaining recommendations will enable the state to better evaluate the use of resources to support NDOC, identify inefficiencies, manage risk, measure the success and failures of programs and policies in order to guide future decision-making, build public confidence and public interest in NDOC, and promote good governance and professionalism. While we recognize that some of the
recommendations may be aspirational during these economic times, many are costeffective and may lead to long-term savings. Others should be considered for
implementation when it is financially feasible.

The recommendations are provided in summary below for convenience. We encourage a full review of the report to understand the context and reasoning behind each of the recommendations.

1. Conduct more formal and regular audits of both southern and northern
2. Create formal follow-up for problems identified during internal audits.
3. Improve tracking system for inmate grievances and generate regular reports.
4. Resolve more inmate grievances at the facility level.
5. Consider creating a citizens review board for the inmate grievance process.
6. Implement a staff survey.
7. Provide pro bono attorneys for inmates in the Inmate Early Mediation
8. Keep more investigations at the facility level.
9. Provide additional training on NOTIS for staff at all levels.
10. Train select staff to run reports in NOTIS.
11. Set internal performance measures and formalize internal data sharing.
12. Provide more information to Board of State Prison Commission members and
in a timely manner.
13. Clarify the role of the Board.
14. Develop system for following up on concerns received at public meetings.
15. Create an ombudsman to handle complaints by inmates, staff and the public.
16. Make certain reports and evaluations available to the public.
17. Develop a publicly available data dashboard.
18. Create a dedicated Public Information Officer position.

Mass Incarceration in Nevada Is a Failed Strategy/SB398

This was read out at the April 2010 Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners:

Nevada Prison Commissioners Meeting, April 20, 2010

Dahn Shaulis, Ph.D.

Mass Incarceration in Nevada Is a Failed Strategy/SB398

My name is Dahn Shaulis. I am an instructor at the College of Southern Nevada, a former Nevada correctional employee, and an attender of the Las Vegas Friends Worship Group—the Quakers.

My purpose for being here again is to discuss Nevada’s justice options for the future. In discussing these options, we need to examine where we are and were we have come from in terms of justice and prisons. When I speak of justice it’s about a justice much broader than many people perceive.

The State of Nevada is in crisis, socially, economically, and spiritually. Unemployment in Nevada has been in the double digits for months and has approached 14%. For people of color and the working-class, their struggles for opportunities, including decent and humane housing, education, employment and justice have taken longer. Nevada’s unemployment rate for African Americans is estimated at 20%, but that does not even include discouraged workers and those part-time workers who are seeking full-time work. Unemployment rates for Latinos are not much better and I suspect rates for indigenous peoples are also above the average.

As I mentioned at the January 2010 Prison Board meeting, Nevada has heavily invested in a Prison-Industrial Complex (PIC) for more than four decades. Prison expansion began in the mid-1960s and has continued into the 21st century. Since the 1970s, the State has also chosen to mass incarcerate youth, giving NDOC more potential recruits for prison. Even as index crime rates began to drop in this State in the early 1980s, Nevada continued on the path of mass incarceration. Conditions were so deplorable in Elko that the youth facility required federal oversight. Nevada has also chosen to jail and imprison many women, rather than find alternatives to incarceration or to remedy the situation by understanding the etiology of crime.

Tough on crime legislation has been tough on society, as Nevada leaders chose for decades to disregard human needs: underfunding education, mental health treatment, drug treatment, and decent affordable housing. The State chose to increase sentence structures and to punish probation and parole violators, at the expense of long-term social and economic costs. Prisons in Nevada were supposedly constructed to save rural economies, but they also provided low-wage convict labor–reminiscent of the racist South after the Civil War. Prisons may bring work for some, but the work is often inhumane—it bleeds into all those who are near it.

From the 1980s to the present, Nevada followed the most dysfunctional aspects of the California prison system, and built Golden Gulags, facilities that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to construct, staff, and maintain. Limited efforts were made to rehabilitate prisoners despite increasing knowledge about what works in correctional treatment. Recent attempts to privatize prisons and prison services at Summit View, the women’s prison in Southern Nevada, and the medical services at Ely State Prison (ESP) have been huge failures—yet Governor Gibbons continues to push for more privatization.

In 2007, Governor Gibbons proposed $1.7 billion in new prison construction to include a new death chamber—because he saw no other alternatives. Only a budget crisis and unforeseen drops in crime prevented the Governor and Director Howard Skolnik from continuing this mass incarceration master plan.

So here’s the picture in 2010. According to the US Census, Nevada ranks 2nd in prison spending per capita and 48th in education spending. The State has chosen a path of mass incarceration and a system that promotes violence and ignorance rather than a path of education and innovation. In April 2010, Nevada has been labeled as the most place dangerous state in the US. But this is a pyrrhic defeat for the Nevada prison system, which profits from crime and the fear of crime.

Prisons today function inadequately as drug treatment and mental health facilities, as “the new asylums.” They also serve inadequately as high schools, work houses, and as high-cost warehousing of throw-away people. Nevada’s prisons, frankly, serve as graduate schools and network hubs for organized interstate crime and White Supremacist hate groups.

Little effort is made to help prepare prisoners for work and independent living after they leave the facilities. One of Governor Gibbon’s recent strategies to cut the budget included closing Casa Grande, the state’s transition facility; Mr. Skolnik did not protest the plan to cut Casa Grande. This plan to close Casa Grande should be understood in the context that the Nevada Department of Corrections wins when it receives “repeat customers.” NDOC is an agency that grows in proportion to its failures.

When I publicly made statements two years ago, that NDOC officials were morally corrupt, and reported my experiences in the Justice Policy Journal, prison officials told the media I was fabricating information. They refused to comment on the record, however, because they knew I was telling the truth about prison conditions and the state of justice in Nevada. As a payback perhaps, Mr. Skolnik denied me access into NDOC facilities to teach college courses or to volunteer.

As UNLV criminal justice Professor Randall Shelden will tell you, our prison system is a failed system. Mass incarceration is a drain on society and it’s a dysfunctional strategy to improve public safety. In terms of economic opportunity costs, money spent on prisons means less resources for education, drug treatment, mental health care, and community redevelopment.

So what are our options?

Privatizing prisons does not work. They are not even an adequate short-term fix. No other civilized nations use this failed strategy of punitive justice to this extreme. Our only reasonable option is to think long-term and to think holistically. We need to recognize that resources are limited and that there are opportunity costs. Even US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, questioned this approach as early as 2004.

One of the most obvious short-term solutions would be to pass Senate Bill (SB) 398. This program would divert hundreds of nonviolent offenders from prison and into treatment. The SAGE Commission has estimated a savings of $280 million over a 5-year period—savings that could be used to invest in people rather than in concrete shrines to man’s ignorance and greed.

The ideal situation would be to take the savings from this diversion program to reinvest in communities hardest hit by mass incarceration, “million-dollar blocks,” to be spent on prevention and reentry. Good Pre-K programs, for example, reduce crime in the long run. The Rand Corporation and others have ideas of what programs would be most effective.

I would like to have your support today and am asking that you promise to promote SB 398 immediately–with the courage to promote it publicly. I would also ask you to encourage educators and working-class communities to support this bill.

In my January 2010 statement to the Board I explained several sources to safely plan for the downsizing of prisons—and for long-term community investment that reduces crime. These sources include legitimate authorities: Michael Jacobson and the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments. We also need to train and retrain workers so they don’t have to resort to prison work, as I did, for a decent paycheck. In the long-term, we need to mature as a State, divest ourselves from prisons and sources of crime such as casino gambling, while investing in the People.

Prison Commissioners meet on April 20th

The Meeting of the Prison Commissioners was postponed till april 20th, 2010. So there still is time to send in your questions, comments to the meeting for the record.

Agenda (click).

See our new Page on top of this blog for information about the locations (Carson City and Las Vegas) and past Minutes of Meetings.

Remember: we can speak up for our loved ones in prisons in Nevada at this meeting, and they can send in their comments too!

Minutes of the Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners of January 12, 2010

You can find the Minutes for the January 12 2010 Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners here.

The next Meeting will be held on April 13th 2010. See here for the upcoming Meetings and Agenda, and the Minutes from past Meetings.

If you have something to say to the Board of Prison Commissioners, about a rule or regulation, about something that is wrong, or should be fixed and amended, you can speak out at this meeting for a fixed time, and your story will then be added for the record.

The Meetings usually convene at:

State Capitol Building Annex, 2nd floor, 101 N. Carson Street, Carson City, Nevada,

and video conferenced at:

Grant Sawyer State Office Building, Room 5100, 555 E. Washington Ave., Las Vegas, Nevada.

Come to the next Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners

Next Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners: Januari 12, 2010.

Write and send in your comments for the record. Maybe you have questions? Grievances? Unanswered questions? Complaints? Suggestions? This is your chance to submit the comments and if you are in the area, to read them out to the Board.

It may be that you feel not heard by the Board, but remember, if we do not tell them, they can always say the “did not know.” Now, they can not deny that there are abuses and extremely bad conditions in the prisons of Nevada. Because we told the Board about them. Witnesses from inside prisons, and family members, friends of prisoners, professionals like nurses testified of the bad state of the prisons in Nevada.

Should we care? Of course! Most prisoners will be free one day, living in the community again. Do we care about Human Rights? Well prisoners are humans too, even if you or I want to place all our anger, frustration on them. Human rights are not only for ´good´ people….

Investing in proper rehabilitation of prisoners is vital for the rest of the state and country. It costs more to incarcerate a person than to rehabilitate someone, because if it goes well, they will never return to prison. I am not sure whether the authorities want emptier prisons though….

Even better investment would be to start with good education and jobs. Not jobs in the guard/security incarceration industry I mean (although there is a shortage of personnel, leading to frustrations and stress at the workplace, where people are being incarcerated. Maybe also less long sentences would be a solution to create less stressful situations?), but jobs with dignity and respect. Rehabilitating prisoners, and preventing crime from happening by providing better education and help for families with children, and creating less criminal offenses would be a very important step.

Minutes, exhibits Meeting (Oct 13, 09) of the Board of Prison Commissioners

Here is the link to the minutes and the record of the Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners with the public, held on October 13, 2009.

Prisoner advocates yet again asked for oversight of the prison system, and they wondered why the public has not yet heard about the cooperation with the Vera Institute for oversight.

There was also discussion about the budget and the department being understaffed, the furloughs, and inmates possibly having to pay for a gym and a shop. There was nothing said about how inmates are going to pay, yet someone asked how her husband can parole, if there are no jobs for the inmates, and if there is no money to get a post-high-school education. The parole board would like to see inmates who have jobs and who can prove they have educated themselves….

These and other questions are usually not answered by the Prison Commissioners. But as it is the only public way to raise voices (and we all pay for it!), it is important for as many people who want crime prevented, human rights respected, and safety for those working in the prison system to speak up. If the budget is too little for so many prisoners, maybe the Prison Commission should consider preventing crime, paroling people faster, installing less long sentences and starting to educate and rehabilitate prisoners. Maybe they should listen more attentively to the people at these meetings speaking up, out of experience. Just a thought….

The next Meeting will be on January 12, 2010. You can prepare a short statement for the record, and read it out during the meeting (no longer than a few minutes per speaker).

Words for the upcoming Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners

Received by email:


My comments for the public Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners, on October 13th, 2009

To the Board of Prison Commissioners and everyone attending the meeting and beyond,

I would like the Board and everyone to know that the situation of Medical Care in Nevada´s prisons is still a big issue, and there has been no change in this situation since I became involved with this human rights crisis a year ago.

The situation consists amongst others of:

Inadequate training of staff and medical staff to help prisoners who have medical issues. There are still many mentally ill prisoners being held on lockdown together with other prisoners, and they should be cared for elsewhere with proper doctors (psychiatrists). The situation now gets worse too for those who do not (yet) suffer.

There seems to be no doctor at Ely State Prison, or no qualified doctor. A prison with so many men locked down needs a permanent medical staff including two or three doctors, well trained for prison medical issues. There also needs to be access to specialist care for diabetics, urological care, etc. If that is not possible, the prisoners needing this care should be placed where the care is at hand.

The situation in the prison system in the USA and Nevada is that the sentences are so long, that prisoners will get medical complaints sooner or later. Withholding medical care comes down to torture, or “cruel and unusual punishment.” So either the medical care system should be improved or the sentences should be reduced. In The Netherlands, prisoners are allowed to choose their own outside doctor at their own cost if the prison´s medical doctor is inadequate.

That a warden who is head of a prison when a prisoner died of lack of medical care (he had received no insulin for a very long time, even though he was an insulin-dependent diabetic patient) can still be in function, and is not suspended pending an investigation, tells us much about the corrupt-ic cover-ups and goings-on in the Nevada prison system.

Another point I want to make is that the lack of any intellectual stimulus makes prisoners passive and inadequately prepared for their eventual release into society. Please make the Library available to every prisoner, by stimulating them to make a visit every week. Pass out books to prisoners if you want the prison remain on lockdown. Pass out newspapers. Make school, also post-GED school an issue in the prisons. Keep a good Law Library. How are prisoners going to get a job if they lack all capacities for social abilities and intellectual capacities?

Be fair with the rules: parole dates should be kept. One prisoner complained to me that he had been over the parole date´s time for many months. Another has very low security level points but still is being kept on administrative segregation because of things that happened more than 5 years ago. Please keep that prisoner on the actual (Medium) security level he has “earned” and not on High Risk Potential! How can a prisoner earn any good time otherwise, if you do not keep to your own rules?

Communication with the outside world: If a prisoner is allowed one phonecall a week, the staff should hand him the phone, or let him out of his cell to a phonebooth in the prison. Now, weeks go by without contact with a friend or child of the prisoner, making the whole situation inhuman and dangerous, because a person who cannot communicate with loved ones, will become a danger to him or herself and others. Reality will point this out.

Thank you for giving me and others the opportunity to speak my and our concerns for our friends and loved ones in prison. They are still human beings just like you and me. Although I am in Nevada, I am at the moment visiting my friend in prison. If the meeting had been tomorrow, I could have met you all and spoken these words myself. I trust the words will reach your hearts and that you may do the noble work of making things better in the Nevada prison system.

– More medical staff, better trained, more oversight
– Keep to your own rules, have oversight installed for rules-keeping.
– Have better oversight and system installed for communication of prisoners with loved ones
– Keep the prisoner´s brains trained by allowing access to library, law library, more reading material, no more in advance having to have a book-title accepted by staff, and inviting a Books to Prisoners program for Nevada prisoners.

Yours sincerely,

How to Submit Comments for the Record for the Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners

There is power in numbers! From an email to us:

IF YOU WANT TO SUBMIT WRITTEN TESTIMONY for this forthcoming meeting HERE´S HOW. Type or write an email with your concerns/problem and don’t forget to offer a solution. Staying within one page in as few words as possible has the best chance for attention.

Get it ready to be sent for arrival by 1 pm the day before the meeting to be assured it gets pre-handling done that is needed. It is to be emailed to:

For those of you in Las Vegas and Carson City: please try to attend at one of the two locations given. There is power in numbers. This is true even if you are just there to listen and observe. Those attending can get the “urge to speak” to something or ask a question to do so without submitting written testimony (which is truly useful since it is documented in the meeting minutes. Be sure to sign the attendance sheet so you get counted.

Here is the information about the location and time of the meeting: October 13th!

Please pass this information on to anyone who has a friend or loved one in the Nevada prison system!