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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.

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.

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.
All 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 for hundreds 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 and taking 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.

Prison 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.

Businesses 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.

Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Should state contracts allowing prisoners to be substituted for American workers at low wages be abolished?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

    by Bob Sloan on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 04:00:18 PM PST

  •  Surely a silly question, but id anyone from Alpine (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    in jail?

    Do we have access to their names? And how much they owe Nevada taxpayers?

    Thanks, as always, Bob.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 05:11:54 PM PST

    •  Sorry to say, none of them are in jail! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl, kurt

      The NDOC had an opportunity to force the owner of Alpine, Randy Bulloch to agree to provide personal responsibility for the debt, but deliberately did not pursue him personally.

      Once that happened Alpine defaulted within 60 days of signing the agreement to repay.

      The total owed under the judgement is $438,000+

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

      by Bob Sloan on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 06:28:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe some of us should follow him around (0+ / 0-)

        a bit and publicize his responsibilities. ::'nother evil grin::

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
        ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

        by FarWestGirl on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 06:56:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  LOL Bulloch has no remorse about using the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FarWestGirl

          inmates or not paying back the state.  He's lost his contractor's license now but still in business after securing a partner with a license so he can continue in business.

          I've written several articles about him and he's been all over the tv out in Vegas, and he could care less...also has an IRS tax lien for more than $600K, and one for another $38K along with liens from suppliers he never paid.

          "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

          by Bob Sloan on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:32:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Hey, a question for you... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk

    The state of Oregon uses 'jail standards' from the state sheriff's association. They do jail inspections biennially, but I can't find a copy of the actual standards anywhere since they're an association instead of a state entity and don't have to furnish them to the public. Any ideas on where I could find a copy? Google hasn't helped much.

    Thanks

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 05:17:18 PM PST

    •  Look for the jail standards at the American (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl, peptabysmal, kurt

      Correctional Association (ACA) website.  A second place to inquire will be the Bureau of Justice Statistics...a division of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).

      You're just beginning to understand the problems that come with privatization of most oversight over state and county run corrections.  Just like now the NCIA has a grant from the BJA to oversee the PIECP program, the ACA sets the standards and does reviews for compliance.  Both of these "associations" are private interest organizations that have their membership and profits way above the rights of the prisoners or accountability to the taxpayers.

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

      by Bob Sloan on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 06:32:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks! I've just found out that Oregon counties (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt

        are required by law to impanel a grand jury at least yearly, to review the local jail and detention facilities, (including juvenile facilities) and submit the findings to the county commissioners or equivalent. Though they're not required to publish the findings.

        I'm pretty sure there are a number of counties not in compliance with the law. And I'm about to start making some waves about it. ::evil grin::

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
        ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

        by FarWestGirl on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 06:54:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't object to prison labor (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt

    so long as it is fairly compensated.  now it wouldn't trouble me for a prisoner to get minimum wage for a job which might pay somewhat higher, and I don't find that morally troubling - assuming that everything else, starting with the process that made him a prisoner - is just (ha!)

    But using prisoners as slave labor is abhorrent.  There's no other conclusion.

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 07:01:42 PM PST

    •  There are a myriad assortment of ways in (0+ / 0-)

      which prisoner could work and gain marketable skills without unfairly competing against private business.

      For instance...they could manufacture items, materials needed by those on social programs...food and hygiene items, clothing, shoes, etc.  The state already provides these items and using inmate labor would reduce the costs associated with those goods without impacting the private markets unfairly.

      These inmates working in PIECP have several deductions taken from their paychecks: room and board (to pay back the costs of incarceration), contributions to victim restitution programs, taxes, child support...and in the end they get to keep 20 to 35% or their earnings.  In Nevada, an additional 5% is taken to fund prison industry expenses or expansions....and they aren't receiving the full wages they are supposed to get under federal law.  If they were paid prevailing wages, the deductions for room and board would be higher and pay more of the actual costs of incarceration.

      By allowing these private companies to get away with paying only a fraction of the wages required, they are in effect allowing the company to "short-change" the citizens who wind up paying more of the prison costs.

      "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled" http://piecp-violations.com/

      by Bob Sloan on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 08:40:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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