Governor considering "dorms" for prison workers in rural areas

Gov. Kenny Guinn said Wednesday it may be necessary to build dormitories for prison employees assigned to Lovelock and Ely to make it easier for workers to take jobs there.

Both those rural prisons have what Prison Director Bob Bayer describes as "huge" employee vacancy rates because the state can't get people to take and keep those jobs.

"There's just too much turnover," said Guinn. "There's not jobs out there for spouses."

He said one solution might be to put workers in those prisons on a schedule similar to a fireman's and house them in dorm facilities while they are working.

"We may have to recommend housing units out there so we can look at 10 days on and four days off like firemen," said Guinn.

He asked Bayer to begin looking into that idea.

The comments came during a discussion of prison vacancy rates. State prison officials complain that they lose far too many experienced people to Washoe, Clark and other local jurisdictions which pay more and offer better benefits. Bayer has said repeatedly that the added problems of living in Ely or Lovelock, both very small communities with limited amenities for families, makes it nearly impossible to staff those facilities.

Those vacancy rates, according to figures presented at the Board of Examiners, also helped account for $800,000 worth of prison overtime last year. Guinn pointed out much of that overtime is unavoidable because, when critical positions are vacant for any reason, they must be staffed to ensure security at the prisons.

The Prison Board also asked Bayer to take a long look at the contract for handling inmate phone calls to the outside world. Activists led by Pat Hines, who has a family member in the prison system, complain the state is taking advantage of them and the inmates by making a huge profit on a phone contract that bills far more for inmate phone calls than the average person pays at home.

Guinn agreed the state shouldn't be making $200,000 a year on inmate phone calls. He was joined by Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa and Secretary of State Dean Heller in asking Bayer to review the entire contract and report at the next board meeting.

Bayer pointed out that the new contract doesn't raise rates to the inmates; it's the same rate they were charged under the old contract.

"But if you're making that kind of profit, you don't have to," said Guinn.


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