Article: Furloughs concern state prisons chief

Sep. 09, 2009
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal

Lack of correctional officers on duty could prove to be risky, Skolnik says


CARSON CITY — In light of a prison riot in California, the Nevada corrections director said Tuesday that he wants to avoid any furloughs by correctional officers in Nevada.

“We consider it a public safety risk,” Corrections Director Howard Skolnik said during a state Board of Examiners meeting.

Like other state employees, correctional officers are supposed to take one unpaid furlough day per month as part of a cost saving measure implemented by the Legislature. That is equivalent to a 4.6 percent cut in pay.

The Board of Examiners gave Skolnik enough money in July to avoid furloughs through September but asked him to come up with a furlough plan after that date.

Skolnik said he has developed a furlough plan but would rather not implement it.

He spoke about the Aug. 9 riot at the California Institution for Men in Chino. About 250 inmates were injured in the 4-hour riot, and 55 needed hospitalization.

At the time of the Chino riot, 15 percent of the correctional officers there were on furloughs, according to Skolnik.

He doubts the riot would have been prevented if they had been working but it might have been better controlled.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said it would cost $8.5 million between now and June 30, 2011, to cover costs of paying correctional officers rather than requiring them to take furloughs.

The Legislature, according to Clinger, set aside $4 million to give pay to all state employees who were considered essential and could not take furloughs.

Clinger said he will schedule another Board of Examiners meeting later this month to discuss Skolnik’s concern about furloughing correctional officers.

The board consists of Gov. Jim Gibbons, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller.

Rather than furloughing employees, Gibbons had proposed they take a 6 percent cut in pay. They would have continued to work the same number of hours under the governor’s plan.