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 www.nvsos.gov and http://www.doc.nv.gov/board/index.php?idnum=0 .

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).

Title:

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:

http://www.doc.nv.gov/Vera_Oversight_Status_Report_for_NDOC_July_2010.pdf (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
facilities.
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
Program.
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.