Nevada in Budget Squeeze

Hard Choices in Store for State That Already Runs Lean; Some See Opportunity
February 22, 2010
By Alexandra Berzon

Wall Street Journal

Nevada’s $887 million deficit is puny compared with California’s $20 billion hole.

But in a state that operates one of the leanest budgets in the nation, that amounts to a 22% shortfall, a gap that has some worried that the state might fall further behind in such areas as education and health care, where it already lags behind other states. Others sense an opening to chart a new course in small government.

“We are working on solutions to turn this recession into an opportunity to reinvent our state’s government,” Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons said in an emergency State of the State address this month. “We may never have an opportunity like this again,” he said. Mr. Gibbons faces a tough primary battle this year and has had low approval ratings.

Limited government is as much part of the folklore of Nevada as cowboys and mobsters. Shortly before Nevada became a state, mining companies—then the dominant industry—ensured a tax cap for themselves in the constitution. The state has never had a personal income tax, and voters enshrined that ban in the constitution in the 1980s. The state legislature meets in regular session only for a few months every two years.

Nevada has been hit hard by both the foreclosure crisis and a sharp drop in gambling and tourism spending. The unemployment rate was nearly 13% in December, up from 8.4% a year earlier. Housing prices dropped 25% in the third quarter of 2009 from a year earlier, when they were already down 26%.

Mr. Gibbons, a conservative who faces a tough primary challenge, is among those who are trying to use the latest budget crisis as a way to ensure Nevada doesn’t stray from its small-government roots.On Tuesday the legislature begins a special session to close the shortfall in the budget it approved a year ago, which includes this fiscal year and next.

However, that’s a mighty task in a state as flinty as Nevada.

… read more here

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Nevada in Budget Squeeze

Hard Choices in Store for State That Already Runs Lean; Some See Opportunity
February 22, 2010
By Alexandra Berzon

Wall Street Journal

Nevada’s $887 million deficit is puny compared with California’s $20 billion hole.

But in a state that operates one of the leanest budgets in the nation, that amounts to a 22% shortfall, a gap that has some worried that the state might fall further behind in such areas as education and health care, where it already lags behind other states. Others sense an opening to chart a new course in small government.

“We are working on solutions to turn this recession into an opportunity to reinvent our state’s government,” Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons said in an emergency State of the State address this month. “We may never have an opportunity like this again,” he said. Mr. Gibbons faces a tough primary battle this year and has had low approval ratings.

Limited government is as much part of the folklore of Nevada as cowboys and mobsters. Shortly before Nevada became a state, mining companies—then the dominant industry—ensured a tax cap for themselves in the constitution. The state has never had a personal income tax, and voters enshrined that ban in the constitution in the 1980s. The state legislature meets in regular session only for a few months every two years.

Nevada has been hit hard by both the foreclosure crisis and a sharp drop in gambling and tourism spending. The unemployment rate was nearly 13% in December, up from 8.4% a year earlier. Housing prices dropped 25% in the third quarter of 2009 from a year earlier, when they were already down 26%.

Mr. Gibbons, a conservative who faces a tough primary challenge, is among those who are trying to use the latest budget crisis as a way to ensure Nevada doesn’t stray from its small-government roots.On Tuesday the legislature begins a special session to close the shortfall in the budget it approved a year ago, which includes this fiscal year and next.

However, that’s a mighty task in a state as flinty as Nevada.

… read more here

Governor lays out cuts: $895 million in cuts include closing NSP, more mining taxes

Brace yourself, visitors of prisoners in Nevada… In cutting of ‘costs’, visiting your loved ones in prison will be on the cutting table…

Source: Nevada Appeal

By Geoff Dornan
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Tuesday officially called for a special session of the Nevada Legislature on Feb. 23 to balance a state budget now $881 million short.

The list of budget cuts included in the proclamation and backup documentation projects $12.2 million in savings and 136 layoffs by shutting down the old Nevada State Prison in Carson City.

It also directs that corrections employees join the rest of state service in taking furloughs, which will rise from 8 hours unpaid leave each month to 10 hours.Of the roughly 18,500 state employees, 2,709 are exempted from the furloughs, 1,923 of them in the Department of Corrections. Almost none of the rest are general fund positions. They are primarily paid by federal money. Those in the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection are funded by a mill tax on utilities.

All will now take furloughs.

The consumer protection workers, according to assistant attorney general Jim Spencer, have been taking furloughs despite the exemptions.

For the federally funded employees, Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said they will take furloughs and the money saved will be used in operations or to hire more workers in critical posts so that it doesn’t go back to the federal government.

The list also includes several revenue raising proposals — the largest of which is eliminating numerous tax exemptions now allowed mining companies. The mineral tax changes would generate an estimated $50 million this two-year budget cycle.

Gibbons also called for changes to force collection of sales taxes on Internet purchases. There was no estimate how much revenue that would produce.Gibbons rejected the suggestion that those proposals constitute tax increases.“These are not new taxes. They are already required to pay those taxes,” he said of the Internet tax. “Businesses conducting business in the state of Nevada are actually escaping those taxes.”

Of the mining tax, he said the plan involves “closing loopholes, not raising taxes.”
“We’re clarifying the deductions they are allowed to take.”

Mining Association Director Tim Crowley said he believes mining as well as other businesses will have to participate in solving the budget crisis. “In the end, there will be some kind of package that will probably include mining,” he said.

Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said some of the cuts he worried most about were restored in his budget, including 77 welfare workers and caseload growth for supported living programs for the disabled and mentally ill.

Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said he believes the furloughs are “doable” in the prison system but will require rolling lockdowns of prison units, reduced visitation and closing towers on a rotating basis.

DMV Director Edgar Roberts said his agency will almost certainly take advantage of the proposal to allow staff to work four 10-hour shifts weekly, which may result in closing DMV offices on Mondays.The proposal hits school districts and the university system not only for the 10 percent cuts imposed on other state agencies but for an additional 1.75 percent reduction in payroll. With the 4 percent cuts the university system and school districts budgeted this year — but didn’t implement — that raises those entities to the same 5.75 percent overall pay cut faced in the rest of state service. That will cost the university system $9.5 million and public schools $35.7 million.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said it will be up to the system of higher education and the districts whether to meet those cuts with lower salaries or layoffs. To give them more flexibility, however, the proclamation includes removing mandates now imposed on school districts for such things as class size reduction, books and equipment spending and full day kindergarten, giving them much more flexibility to handle the 10 percent budget cuts they face.

The universities get another hit, however, as the plan takes about $12.7 million currently budgeted for them through the Millennium Scholarship program. There are currently some 20,000 students attending college on that scholarship.

The detailed proposals include sweeping any and all possible money from numerous reserve and other accounts as well as outright transfers of money from the Millennium Scholarship Fund, Public Health Trust Fund, Unclaimed Property and the Fund For a Healthy Nevada.

State payments for retired employee health insurance would be suspended and the retiree group investment trust tapped for the $14.7 million that would cost.

The governor’s proposal would take $35 million from the Department of Taxation’s surety bond account, which is funded by bonds required of numerous businesses to operate in Nevada. The danger there is that those businesses are entitled to get the money back under certain circumstances.The plan would also take most of the Insurance Insolvency Fund which protects people with insurance claims if their company goes under. It would take almost all of the Wildlife Heritage Fund which hunters pay into to protect and manage game in the state.The plan would generate just under $11.3 million by giving the state a state benefits plan premium holiday one month. The premiums would have to be made up from the plan’s reserves.

In addition, the plan envisions collecting $30 million next year by having the company Insurenet install cameras on roadways around the state to catch unregistered vehicles. Deputy Chief of Staff Lynn Hettrick said actual revenues from that program should be much higher since an estimated 22 percent of the vehicles on Nevada roads are believed unregistered.Altogether, the proposals total about $895 million in cuts or revenues generated to cover the budget shortfall this budget cycle.

While Gibbons said lawmakers are aware of nearly everything on the list, they have some disagreements that will have to be worked out.

One of those is his call to repeal collective bargaining for local governments and school districts, which lawmakers have refused to even draft into potential legislation.

Chief of Staff Robin Reedy said the proclamation is just the first take on what lawmakers will have before them when the special session convenes. She said other elements are still being worked out and that additional proclamations can be expected in the coming week.


At the same time, here is a news item from News 4 about the amount of money that is paid to keep employees of NDOC on paid leave because of an investigation:

Paid leave adds up for prison system
Monday February 15, 2010 12:00am PST

Top Story Fact Finder
Joe Hart – News 4

A News 4 investigation into paid administrative leave in our state government has uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent to pay people who are not working.The Department of Public Safety has now adopted new policies to cut down on the amount of money paid to employees who are put on leave because they’ve been accused of some type of wrongdoing. Last year the bill for paid administrative leave at DPS, which oversees the Nevada Highway Patrol, came to $370,000.

When we contacted the department of corrections to find out how much it spends on paid administrative leave, we were first told that information would not be available.Suzanne Pardee, the prison public information officer, told us:

“We could probably get an overall amount, but it would not break it down to administrative leave. I don’t have specifics for you.”

Two hours later, Pardee was able to find the information we had asked for. She says the prison system paid out $400,000 last year to workers who were under investigation after being accused of some type of wrongdoing.

One employee remained on paid leave for 16 months. Pardee says the department is taking steps to address the issue of paid administrative leave. The director of the department, Howard Skolnick, is now using his authority to terminate some employees who’ve been accused of wrongdoing.

It’s one way for the state to cut down on the amount of paid leave by avoiding lengthy investigations.

If you think you know of any examples of people taking advantage of paid administrative, contact Joe Hart at jhart@mynews4.com.

Governor lays out cuts: $895 million in cuts include closing NSP, more mining taxes

Brace yourself, visitors of prisoners in Nevada… In cutting of ‘costs’, visiting your loved ones in prison will be on the cutting table…

Source: Nevada Appeal

By Geoff Dornan
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Tuesday officially called for a special session of the Nevada Legislature on Feb. 23 to balance a state budget now $881 million short.

The list of budget cuts included in the proclamation and backup documentation projects $12.2 million in savings and 136 layoffs by shutting down the old Nevada State Prison in Carson City.

It also directs that corrections employees join the rest of state service in taking furloughs, which will rise from 8 hours unpaid leave each month to 10 hours.Of the roughly 18,500 state employees, 2,709 are exempted from the furloughs, 1,923 of them in the Department of Corrections. Almost none of the rest are general fund positions. They are primarily paid by federal money. Those in the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection are funded by a mill tax on utilities.

All will now take furloughs.

The consumer protection workers, according to assistant attorney general Jim Spencer, have been taking furloughs despite the exemptions.

For the federally funded employees, Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said they will take furloughs and the money saved will be used in operations or to hire more workers in critical posts so that it doesn’t go back to the federal government.

The list also includes several revenue raising proposals — the largest of which is eliminating numerous tax exemptions now allowed mining companies. The mineral tax changes would generate an estimated $50 million this two-year budget cycle.

Gibbons also called for changes to force collection of sales taxes on Internet purchases. There was no estimate how much revenue that would produce.Gibbons rejected the suggestion that those proposals constitute tax increases.“These are not new taxes. They are already required to pay those taxes,” he said of the Internet tax. “Businesses conducting business in the state of Nevada are actually escaping those taxes.”

Of the mining tax, he said the plan involves “closing loopholes, not raising taxes.”
“We’re clarifying the deductions they are allowed to take.”

Mining Association Director Tim Crowley said he believes mining as well as other businesses will have to participate in solving the budget crisis. “In the end, there will be some kind of package that will probably include mining,” he said.

Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said some of the cuts he worried most about were restored in his budget, including 77 welfare workers and caseload growth for supported living programs for the disabled and mentally ill.

Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said he believes the furloughs are “doable” in the prison system but will require rolling lockdowns of prison units, reduced visitation and closing towers on a rotating basis.

DMV Director Edgar Roberts said his agency will almost certainly take advantage of the proposal to allow staff to work four 10-hour shifts weekly, which may result in closing DMV offices on Mondays.The proposal hits school districts and the university system not only for the 10 percent cuts imposed on other state agencies but for an additional 1.75 percent reduction in payroll. With the 4 percent cuts the university system and school districts budgeted this year — but didn’t implement — that raises those entities to the same 5.75 percent overall pay cut faced in the rest of state service. That will cost the university system $9.5 million and public schools $35.7 million.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said it will be up to the system of higher education and the districts whether to meet those cuts with lower salaries or layoffs. To give them more flexibility, however, the proclamation includes removing mandates now imposed on school districts for such things as class size reduction, books and equipment spending and full day kindergarten, giving them much more flexibility to handle the 10 percent budget cuts they face.

The universities get another hit, however, as the plan takes about $12.7 million currently budgeted for them through the Millennium Scholarship program. There are currently some 20,000 students attending college on that scholarship.

The detailed proposals include sweeping any and all possible money from numerous reserve and other accounts as well as outright transfers of money from the Millennium Scholarship Fund, Public Health Trust Fund, Unclaimed Property and the Fund For a Healthy Nevada.

State payments for retired employee health insurance would be suspended and the retiree group investment trust tapped for the $14.7 million that would cost.

The governor’s proposal would take $35 million from the Department of Taxation’s surety bond account, which is funded by bonds required of numerous businesses to operate in Nevada. The danger there is that those businesses are entitled to get the money back under certain circumstances.The plan would also take most of the Insurance Insolvency Fund which protects people with insurance claims if their company goes under. It would take almost all of the Wildlife Heritage Fund which hunters pay into to protect and manage game in the state.The plan would generate just under $11.3 million by giving the state a state benefits plan premium holiday one month. The premiums would have to be made up from the plan’s reserves.

In addition, the plan envisions collecting $30 million next year by having the company Insurenet install cameras on roadways around the state to catch unregistered vehicles. Deputy Chief of Staff Lynn Hettrick said actual revenues from that program should be much higher since an estimated 22 percent of the vehicles on Nevada roads are believed unregistered.Altogether, the proposals total about $895 million in cuts or revenues generated to cover the budget shortfall this budget cycle.

While Gibbons said lawmakers are aware of nearly everything on the list, they have some disagreements that will have to be worked out.

One of those is his call to repeal collective bargaining for local governments and school districts, which lawmakers have refused to even draft into potential legislation.

Chief of Staff Robin Reedy said the proclamation is just the first take on what lawmakers will have before them when the special session convenes. She said other elements are still being worked out and that additional proclamations can be expected in the coming week.


At the same time, here is a news item from News 4 about the amount of money that is paid to keep employees of NDOC on paid leave because of an investigation:

Paid leave adds up for prison system
Monday February 15, 2010 12:00am PST

Top Story Fact Finder
Joe Hart – News 4

A News 4 investigation into paid administrative leave in our state government has uncovered hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent to pay people who are not working.The Department of Public Safety has now adopted new policies to cut down on the amount of money paid to employees who are put on leave because they’ve been accused of some type of wrongdoing. Last year the bill for paid administrative leave at DPS, which oversees the Nevada Highway Patrol, came to $370,000.

When we contacted the department of corrections to find out how much it spends on paid administrative leave, we were first told that information would not be available.Suzanne Pardee, the prison public information officer, told us:

“We could probably get an overall amount, but it would not break it down to administrative leave. I don’t have specifics for you.”

Two hours later, Pardee was able to find the information we had asked for. She says the prison system paid out $400,000 last year to workers who were under investigation after being accused of some type of wrongdoing.

One employee remained on paid leave for 16 months. Pardee says the department is taking steps to address the issue of paid administrative leave. The director of the department, Howard Skolnick, is now using his authority to terminate some employees who’ve been accused of wrongdoing.

It’s one way for the state to cut down on the amount of paid leave by avoiding lengthy investigations.

If you think you know of any examples of people taking advantage of paid administrative, contact Joe Hart at jhart@mynews4.com.

Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day we would like to share some (bitter) sweet music with you, with the people who miss their family and friends in prisons and jails. And who need a little support to keep going, and to keep hope alive in their hearts.

Fried: When you get out of Jail

Terry Callier: Love Theme from Spartacus

Riot at Ely State Prison: It was a battle!

Source: SF Bay View

There was a riot here at Ely State Prison that took place in the most restricted unit, 4B and 4A. It lasted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1. It was a battle!

There has been a lot of changes here at ESP that all started on Nov. 23, 2009. Rather than giving us anything to look forward to or any real incentive by implementing any constructive or productive programs, the administration has maliciously taken things away. Canteen privileges, appliances (radios, TVs, CD players and the like) and visits have all been stripped away from us so they can hold these things over our head and use them as a control method.

On Nov. 23, 2009, all of the prisoners who are serving “Disciplinary Segregation” were moved and placed in Unit 4, A Wing and B Wing, and Unit 3B. They intentionally made 4B the worst tier in this prison by strategically placing protective custody inmates and mentally ill inmates all around us on this tier, while taking appliances away, so that we have no choice but to be subjected to the everyday torture, sensory deprivation and psychological warfare deliberately placed on us by these PCs and mentally ill inmates, who constantly scream, bang, verbally assault other prisoners, snitch and inform on us and several other tactics they do to make us miserable that I cannot explain.

Not to mention the guards on this unit are the most strict, the most petty, spiteful, vindictive and retaliatory guards in this prison. These guards have intentionally gone out of their way to provoke us on several different occasions. They have taken appliances, including mine, away from inmates who committed rule violations prior to Nov. 23, 2009 – which is against policy – and prisoners who have been found guilty of minor and general write-ups have had their appliances confiscated, and even prisoners who were found not guilty of minor write-ups had their appliances taken away!

To top that off, prisoners who have gone two months without their appliances still have not had their appliances returned to them in spite of what the policy states, and the staff are not answering kites (written messages) or making any efforts to try to get the appliances returned to these prisoners.

Year after year it is take, take, take, and it has gotten to the point where we got fed up with this. We have said enough is enough. We needed to get things off of our chest!

Prisoners on 4B, including myself, kicked off a riot by flooding, burning, capturing food slots, popping sprinkler heads, forcing the guards to gear up and extract us from our cells so that we could fight with them! At least eight guards dressed in full riot gear and helmets would line up and run in our cells, trying to beat us into submission.

We fought hard and we took it to them. Many of us were successful at disarming them of their electrical shield, making sure to get our hits in before they wrapped us up and beat us down. One prisoner even got out of his cell and hit a guard so hard in the helmet that the face guard broke off!

When it was all said and done, there were over 16 cell extractions on both wings, totally three prisoners were sent to the infirmary, one of those prisoners was sent to the hospital outside of the prison because of head trauma, but the other two were returned back to their unit two days later. There was so much blood everywhere – in the cells, on the tier, in the sally port, in the hallway and on the walls – it was crazy! It was a battle!

Every guard that was on the extraction team received some type of injury. Each one had to see the nurse about something. One guard, allegedly, got stabbed during a cell extraction. He was laid out in the sally port being operated on by the nurses for about 45 minutes before he was carried out on a stretcher. After that, the guards’ spirits were deflated and they refused to run in on anybody’s cell. They showed their fear and defeat by their use of chemical agents from here on out.

We battled hard! Whites and several Latino prisoners from different factions all came together, successfully building an army in 20 minutes to fight together and take a stand! Guys that normally would not even talk to each other came together to take it to these swine.

Every one of us who got extracted received a black eye, bloody nose and many lumps and bruises, but we are proud of these battle wounds! At least I’m proud of mine! There were many foul and unprofessional acts done by the guards that directly violate the policies of the institution, and an investigation is being pursued. We are taking this as a victory.

The guards bowed down before we were ready to stop fighting. They extracted me from my cell. I quickly disarmed them of their electrical shield and got a few licks in before they wrapped me up. When they brought me back to my cell, Latinos, Whites and Blacks were all chanting my name and cheering me on. It felt good.

This is not my first riot but it was definitely the best. It’s so good to see solidarity in action, to see prisoners of different races and factions coming together like this. We need more solidarity before we can really start making positive changes in this system!

Resistance and sacrifice,

Coyote
ABC-Nevada Prison Chapter, Ely State Prison

The Systematic and Institutional Drivers of Abuse and Lack of Safety: Expert testimony on Isolation

These are transcripts from the hearings conducted in 2006 by the Commission on Safety and Abuse. Read the full report here.

The text on abuse and solitary confinement is a good example of what needs to be learned by those in powers in Nevada´s prisons and Ndoc.

Commission on safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons, Day 2:

The Systematic and Institutional Drivers of Abuse and Lack of Safety (July 19-20 2006): Expert testimony on Isolation

This panel addressed the forms of isolation, when it’s used and for whom, and the effects of living in isolation and working in an isolation unit. The panel also offered ideas about how to limit the use of isolation and how to create a safer and more humane use of this extreme form of confinement.

Dr. Stuart Grassian, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts — A psychiatrist and former faculty member of the Harvard Medical School, he described the damaging psychological effects of prolonged isolation—what he calls the Security Housing Unit “SHU” syndrome.”

Fred Cohen, Tucson, Arizona — An expert consultant and court-appointed monitor in several states, he addressed the rise of isolation and the special case of the supermax prison and discussed why mentally ill prisoners often end up in isolation and its caustic effects on them.

James Bruton, White Bear Lake, Minnesota — Former warden of the supermax prison in Oak Park, Minnesota, and author of “The Big House: Life Inside a supermax Security Prison,” he discussed how he restricted the use of isolation—relying on it only for protection, never as punishment—and what he did to make that experience more humane and less damaging.

Source: http://www.prisoncommission.org/transcripts/public_hearing_2_day_1_panel_2_Isolation.pdf

DR. GRASSIAN: Thank you. Thanks to the commissioners for allowing me to address you today.
I wanted to start by saying very clearly and very simply, the evidence is overwhelming and conclusive that solitary confinement, housing an inmate alone 22, 23 hours a day, in a small cell, with minimal environmental stimulation and opportunities for social interaction can cause and does cause severe psychiatric harm.

It’s also been, I think at this point, pretty clearly established that part of that harm is a very specific syndrome associated with these kinds of conditions of confinement which in its most severe cases can result in an overpsychotic state, agitated delusional, hallucinatory psychosis with great deal of confusional elements. Actually, it’s a form of delirium that can occur. We often think of delirium as being a product of an absence of adequate internal alerting systems, or particular activating systems parts of the brain not functioning properly, but for individuals who are deprived of an adequate level of external stimulation, the same phenomenon can occur, and the prison system is a particularly toxic environment for producing it. In one part, because prisoners who end up in solitary confinement are very commonly precisely the same group of people who are the most vulnerable 8 to getting these kinds of very severe psychiatric affects.

The prisoners who end up in solitary confinement tend to be affectively labile, labile, impulse ridden, people with poor internal controls. You very often see people with one or another sign of subtle central nervous system dysfunction, people who have had childhood histories of severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; these are the types of 16 individuals who are not going to be able to tolerate prison conditions very well, they are going to have difficulty and if the prison’s response is one of putting them in solitary confinement, you can predict, quite clearly, that they’re going to get sicker, they’re going to get more agitated and they’re going to, very often, be stuck in this vicious cycle where 23 the more agitated, the more out of control they become, the more the prison response is to put them in these very stringent conditions of isolation, for extremely long periods of time.

Fred was talking about the comparison between psychiatric seclusion and solitary confinement. Well, psychiatric seclusion, in most jurisdictions, there are very stringent controls on how long a person can be kept there with monitoring every number of minutes, psychiatric review every hour. And now we’re having a situation where people are being kept in solitary confinement and literally mentally rotting, becoming psychotic, paranoid delusional and they’re being kept there for years.

This is not just a problem with people who have had serious mental illness prior to incarceration. There are many people, documented cases, many documented cases of people who develop this very characteristic, psychiatric syndrome, associated with solitary confinement during periods of incarceration in solitary, people who had no prior history of serious mental disorder but had vulnerabilities factors, such as attention deficit disorder, central nervous system dysfunction, things of that sort.

So this is not — I want the commissioners to understand, I don’t think this is a question that’s open to debate. I have provided you with a very large statement on this issue, citing about 100 references in medical literature. This is a problem which has become a very important problem in a great variety of settings, not just prison settings. It’s become a problem that we identify with polar exploration, with concerns of NASA with space travel, submariners. It’s a problem that’s existed in a great number of medical situations, people in prolonged traction, people who have impairments of their sensory apparatus causing some degree of sensory deprivation, the same syndrome is described in all of these phenomena, and, as I said there’s a fairly extensive body of literature on it. As Fred mentioned, solitary confinement was, in fact, almost the exclusive mode of incarceration was the penitentiary began in the United States.

The penitentiary was a distinctly American invasion and it was initially begun in the early 19th 19 century as an element of great social progress and reform, a repudiation of punishment, an optimistic belief in the ability for people to change. People freed from the constraints of the evils of modern society being sent to a monastic cell with a bible and with work that they would naturally heal. It was a very open system, open to review, and the review was very clear and it was also catastrophic and the system eventually fell into disfavor. People like Tocqueville and Dickens and a whole variety of other people saw that system and spoke about it, wrote about it.

In 1890 the United States Supreme Court in a rather dramatic case commented specifically about the effects of solitary confinement in prisons.

Mr. Medley, there was a case — it was a case Mr. Medley had killed his wife in Colorado and he was duly tried, convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. In the interim between the commission of the crime and the trial and sentencing, the law in Colorado had changed. It used to be that prior to being executed, prior to being hung, you would be in the county jail for 30 days. The new law called for the person to be in the state prison in solitary confinement from anywhere from zero to 60 days prior to being hung. Mr. Medley claimed that he couldn’t
possibly be prosecuted under the new law because the hardship of zero to 60 days of solitary confinement was so severe that as an additional punishment to the punishment of death, it was too great, it was ex post facto. He also claimed, correctly, that Colorado legislature had made a mistake. When they passed the statute they didn’t have a bridging statute, a bridging clause that would allow your old statute to remain in effect, so you couldn’t be sentenced under the old statute that was no longer in effect, so he asked to be released. The United States Supreme Court ordered Mr. Medley to be released. They ordered the warden of the prison to bring him to the gates of the prison and release him because the additional punishment of zero to 60 days of solitary consignment was such an arduous, additional burden that they couldn’t possibly impose it.

They recognized in 1890 that solitary confinement had such a tendency to cause severe mental suffering and psychosis, it couldn’t be added to the sentence of death. And I just assert to the commissioners that we’ve come a long way downhill since 1890. Thank you.

MR. MAYNARD: Thank you, Dr. Grassian.

Mr. Bruton.
MR. BRUTON: Again, I also thank you and I’m honored that you asked me to come and speak to you.

I am a former warden, retired. I spent 34 years in the corrections business, not just in prisons, I spent a lot of time in institutions, I ran two facilities, and I also worked on the streets for years as a probation officer and was in our central office as a deputy commissioner, a member of the state parole board, and so I’ve seen inmates and criminals at just about every level in the institutions, as well as in the field and as well as in the juvenile end.

And I also teach in five colleges and universities and many of the things I’m going to say today I try to teach people coming into the business about a philosophy that Minnesota has had that’s worked, that’s been effective and is, clearly, the foundation of managing prisons in a proper fashion. Dignity and respect. I haven’t heard those words in — a whole lot today, I think I heard them a couple of times, but it’s something that’s almost forgot in institutions. The public certainly doesn’t want to hear it. The public is more interested in us continuing to punish people as they go to prison, they go down every day and I will embellish it a little bit, and poke people with a hot stick and make their life miserable so they won’t ever come back to prison, but they forget about what you’ve said many times today, that 95 percent of the people who come to prison get out some day.

I had a book that was published last year and a chapter in the book is called “With Dignity And Respect,” and it’s about the importance and the fundamental process of running a prison, whether it be a high security prison or whether it be a minimum security prison, inmates need to be respected and they respect respect and it works. And it’s not because we’re trying to molly coddle inmates or we’re trying to make everything wonderful for them or we feel bad
for them; it’s for two reasons.

Number one, it’s the right thing to do — actually, three reasons. Number one, it’s the right thing to do, the way you treat people.
Number two, as we mentioned, 95 percent of the people are going to get out some day, and, number three, we’ve got a lot of staff, a lot of good people that go inside those institutions every day and must be safe and you have to find a way to make them safe.

When I went to work every day managing Oak Park Heights as the warden, I walked around the halls and spent a lot of time inside that institution and one half of the people I walked by in the halls had killed somebody. 95 percent of the people had hurt somebody in their crime. And when you have a very distilled population like that, where half of the people that you work with every day have killed somebody and 95 percent have hurt somebody, you better find a way every day for them to get up in the morning and look forward to something positive or you got big trouble.

Now, when Oak Park Heights opened in 1982 it was really the prototype of the supermax
design. There really wasn’t anything quite like it. There had been a lot of things — institutions that have been formed off of it, but it’s certainly not as big as some of the larger institutions, like Pelican Bay and others that I have been to and toured through the years, but it set the tone for security, high security.

But what made a difference and what made — I think the count is something like over 50
foreign countries have now come to see, is not the security and not the control, because it’s all of that, in fact, I truly believe, and I’ve seen many of the high security prisons and Oak Park Heights, I believe, is the most secure institution ever built anywhere in the world, I truly believe that, especially with a newly designed unit that came on within the last couple of years, but they came to see how it’s managed. How you can not have a population locked down 23 out of 24 hours a day, how you can manage that type of population with the majority of the inmates out of their cells, because that’s the way it’s managed. Most of those inmates, high security inmates with that type of a distilled population are out of their cells most of the day and in a couple minutes I’m going to tell you the effectiveness of it and how it’s worked.

There’s some basic fundamental philosophies that seem to be forgotten in a lot of states around this country and it appalls me to come back and go to states where I see it done properly and to go to other states where no one seems to care. Satisfy the politicians in some states by locking people up and throwing away the key. Let’s build more prisons to incarcerate more people and find ways to keep them in their cells so they don’t hurt anybody, it’s just simply wrong and it doesn’t work. And in a second, as I mentioned, I’m going to tell you some things that prove that we have been effective. Now, I have heard all the of the things about, well, California is bigger and we have prisons as big as your whole population, and that’s very true and there’s some things that work in Minnesota that may not work in California and may not work other places, but the basic fundamental way of how you manage a prison and how you manage people does work and it is effective and it’s been very effective for us.

We have a responsibility, whether it be a high security prison or a low security prison, and maybe even more so in a high security prison, to create an environment conducive to rehabilitation for people who want to make a change in their life. Why wouldn’t we do that? Remember, 95 percent are getting out some day. If somebody wants to learn how to read, why wouldn’t we teach them? If they have a chemical problem, why wouldn’t we find a way to solve that chemical problem? You know, in our society we don’t go out and blame doctors who don’t cure cancer patients, unless they don’t give that cancer patient everything in the medical profession to try to ease their pain or solve their medical dilemma that they’re facing. We don’t do that. We shouldn’t go out and blame wardens for not rehabilitating people, unless that warden or administrator or commissioner doesn’t give that opportunity for a person to change, because I think we have a responsibility to blame that in our system. We have to create a safe and secure environment for people to live in every day, our staff and the inmates, and it’s absolutely essential and we have to do it, and dignity and respect is where it starts.

We’ve got to find a way for these people — and there are people who need to be locked up and should never get out, no question about that. There are people who need to be locked in segregation units, controlled and confined for long periods of time without human contact because they’re so dangerous that they will kill, and I have known some of those who have killed inside institutions, but they still need to have incentive-based programs, and when I mean human contact, I’m talking about being out with the general inmate population because they kill people, they’re just very dangerous and we haven’t found a way to stop that from happening, but they need the human contact.

When I was warden we developed a program in our segregation unit of the most secure prison in the state, and I think the most secure prison ever built, where we had volunteers from a program called AMICAS that came in and walked the cell blocks in segregation so that those inmates had an opportunity to communicate and talk with somebody that wasn’t wearing a uniform or a suit and it was a very effective program. It gave them something to look forward to, somebody to talk to. The people were screened, they were obviously trained and it was very effective.

And the training of the staff is something that’s extremely important as we get into these high security prisons. When you look at an inmate — I’m going fast because I have a lot of points that I want to make for you and I don’t want to run out of time if I can help it.

But when you look at some of the sentences that these people have, and they have no hope, I mean they look ahead at 30 years — I talked to a young man 17 years old, his first eligibility for parole he will be 47. That’s a long time. You better find a way for these people — and this was a very violent inmate — to get up every day and look forward to something positive.
I remember walking into a cell one morning, Saturday morning — and I spent a lot of time in institutions, a lot of time talking to inmates, a lot of time showing that we will respect them and I expected the same back from them, and, in most cases, I got it.

But I walked into a cell one morning when we were housing a long term federal inmate that had come to us. Oak Park Heights had one of the biggest contracts in the country, taking high
security, very dangerous and violent, high profile federal cases. And I walked into this cell on a Saturday morning because I hadn’t had a chance to talk to this guy when he first came in and I asked the officer, pop the cell door when I get down to his cell, and the cell door made a loud click. It was like 8:30 on a Saturday morning and inmates didn’t have to be at work and so forth. This guy had only been with us a couple days.

The cell door clicked and I walked in and this guy flew out of his cell with his fists clenched and he started to come at me and I backed up and I said, hey, hey, stop, what are you doing? And he said, well, who are you? And I said I’m the warden, I’m Jim Brutan, I just want to talk to you for a minute. And he backed off and I said what was that all about, after I calmed him down. And he said, Warden, I’m sorry, it will never happen again, but you need to remember that in other institutions that I’ve been in when somebody opened my door in the morning and I didn’t know who was coming, I was getting a beating or I was going to segregation or I was going in chains somewhere, and I have never forgotten that. Another inmate said to me one time — and I know inmates don’t always tell the truth, but sometimes it’s hard to make some of this stuff up, said to me thank you, Warden, for the way I was treated last night when I came in. I said, how were you treated? He said the staff put me in a cell and said good night, we’ll see you in the morning. I said, what’s so unusual about that? He said, the last place I was in the staff said where would you like your body sent if you are murdered here, and I have never forgotten that type of statement because that did set the tone for many of the involvement that
inmates had in the programs that they were involved in, or lack of programs. Incentive based program is important no matter what type of population you have. You may have inmates serving short term isolation in segregation for maybe 20 days, 30 days or whatever. You might have inmates in segregation serving a year or more for possibly a serious assault or you might have, as you’ve talked about, high security control type institutions where there is simply lockdown and in some cases they haven’t done anything wrong in institutions.

There are states in this country that lockup prisoners simply because they have a gang affiliation, whether they have done anything in the prison right or wrong, and I happen to think that’s wrong. And so there’s a lot of things that go on every single day in institutions around the country that are counterproductive.

Food, phones, medical and visiting. If you can solve your problems around food, phones, medical and visiting and you are on top of it every single day, you are probably going to have a fairly decently run prison without a lot of violence. I’m within my last minute so I am going
to really speed up here a little bit.

Institutions need to be managed properly and it starts at the top. It starts in the commissioner’s office and it starts with wardens and if there’s any erosion of any of four words and any of four actions that go around those four words, it’s honesty, integrity, credibility and trust. You’ve got to have it, you’ve got to be in those institutions every day, you’ve got to be talking to inmates and they’ve got to look forward to something. I know inmates that will never get out of control-type environments for the rest of their life and I don’t believe they ever should, but I also believe they’ve got to find a way that their good behavior is going to get them something positive; a visit, a magazine, a television set, or whatever it is, and it all goes along with the different type of confinement that they’re in.

I’m a very big believer in control and security, you have to have it, but it also goes with dignity and respect. And the last thing I want to say is I’m very pleased to be here and I hope sincerely, and I say this with all due respect, I hope this isn’t just another Commission. I hope it’s something that you really can do because this country is in sad shape when it comes to managing prisons. And I think we have to do it in and we have to do it right and we have to have influence upon your report. I think it has to have some monitoring, maybe some funds attached to it, there have to be fines, there have to be penalties and things have got to change in this country because we’re in pretty sad shape when it comes to how we manage high security prisons.
Thank you very much.

JUDGE SESSIONS: What did your peers in other states adopt or did they say about the Minnesota experience?

MR. BRUTON: Well, a lot of them think we’re crazy. A lot of them think that you can’t possibly take high security people that are management problems and not lock them up all day and have problems with them, but I have never had an institution warden or an administrator from another state come, tour the institution and come back and not say this is really something.
And we’ve given a lot of presentations to wardens and so forth around the country and been
supported by ACA when we talk about no drugs in the institution and they say — and the American Correction Association or the National Institute of Corrections will say he’s not lying, we’ve seen the documents, they don’t have a drug problem.

And so it’s a lot of very strong belief in a philosophy and a lot of good people through the
years that believe it, but I truly believe it’s in all of our institutions, it’s been very effective. I just am very saddened that it isn’t in a lot of the states. I’ve been around prisons a long time.
I’ve never been afraid, until I walked into some prisons in other states and then I couldn’t wait to get out because I was terrified, and that’s pretty sad.

JUDGE SESSIONS: Do you think those training manuals are available to the Commission?

MR. BRUTON: I’ve got two things I’d like you to look at. One is a manual of the American
Corrections Association put out a couple of years ago, it’s called “Supermax Prisons, Beyond The Rock,” I don’t know if you have seen that, there’s about eight wardens, I was one of them that wrote a chapter in there. I don’t agree with everything in there. I agree with my chapter, but most of it is really good. This is a very good document.

Another one came out last year by the American Correction Association called “Becoming A
Model Warden, Striving For Excellence.” A lot of this is about my friend Frank Wood, it was written by a professor from Northern Iowa University. I think you really need to see these documents, they’re very, very outstanding. And then, of course, you’ve got to buy my book, that’s called “The Big House.”

JUDGE SESSIONS: What about teaching manuals, are those available?

MR. BRUTON: Well, of course, the policy manuals in the institutions have been copied and modeled in many states, I don’t know how many have followed them through the years. They have been – I think they’re very, very well done and effective because of the accreditation process that has enforced that and so forth.

So I thank you for your comments.

LVRJ: Plan to close youth prison questioned

Feb. 11, 2010
Source: Las Vegas Review Journal

CARSON CITY — Legislators questioned Wednesday whether Gov. Jim Gibbons’ plan to close the maximum-security Summit View Youth Correctional Center in Las Vegas would save money or just lead to problems at wide-open rural centers where offenders would be moved.

They said that the state still must pay off costs for constructing the $15 million Summit View youth prison near Nellis Air Force Base and that the Elko and Caliente facilities, where some 40 offenders would be sent, might not be secure enough for them.

Summit View is built like a prison with razor wire fencing. The rural youth training centers do not have fences. They are cottagelike settings where the staff members make sure offenders don’t just walk away.

Department of Health and Human Services Director Michael Willden told legislators the state can save $3.7 million by closing Summit View. Layoff notices have been sent to facility workers.

Legislators are reviewing proposals by Gibbons to close Summit View and cut state agency spending by 10 percent between March and June 30, 2011, the end of the state’s two-year budget cycle. Summit View is on the governor’s cut list, but a decision to close it will not be made until the Legislature goes into a special session on Feb. 23.

Read more here

Citizens can give their views on Summit View and other cuts during a 9 a.m. to noon town hall meeting Saturday in Room 4401 in the Sawyer Building, 555 E. Washington Ave. A similar hearing will be held in Reno.

Tu wa moja watu (We are the people)


by Ikemba S. Mutulu
Source: SF Bay View

Dear Bay View readers, and especially my fellow convicts throughout the country, I send this call out to you to join with me in showing some love to the Haitian people. Yes, we all have problems. I too have many of my own. But they all pale in comparison to what’s happening in Haiti: over a hundred thousand estimated dead and missing after a 7.0 earthquake destroyed what little infrastructure the people had. Tens of thousands more injured, left with no medical support, and forced to sleep in the streets with no food or water.

Long before this great tragedy, though, the Western world has been shitting on the people of Haiti. And Amerika has ignored the plight of Haiti long enough. We in Amerika, especially Blacks and Browns, have a responsibility to stand with our Haitian brothers and sisters.

For the young Gs and Sistas who don’t know, because the schools lied to you and hid the truth: Prior to the European invasion – or arrival – of Christopher Columbus in 1492, a single island nation occupied the island of Hispaniola, now shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It was inhabited by the Carib and Arawak Native tribes who were all but killed off after welcoming the Europeans, who staged brutal massacres, during which they raped and murdered both women and children.

As in Mexico and South America, African slaves were brought in by European colonists to supplement the enslaved Natives, sick and dying from European diseases. They were brought to dig for gold and cultivate crops etc., which were then shipped out to the European rulers.

Under the leadership of African and Native warriors, they were able to break their chains and escape into the mountain jungles, where they organized raiding parties to free the people and to build an army. Best known of these leaders was an African named Toussaint L’Ouverture. Together the Africans and Natives waged war, over many years, to eventually repel these European invaders, defeating their great armies and declaring independence from European rule in 1804.

And if not for the blood and courage of our ancestors there in Haiti, we here in the U.S. would not have our freedom today, as it was the example of Haiti defeating the great powers of Europe that sparked numerous other rebellions against slavery and oppression – in Mexico, South America and here in the U.S. Nat Turner knew about Haiti, David Walker, Harriet Tubman and countless other freedom fighters knew of and were empowered by our people in Haiti.

The schools tell you Abraham Lincoln is the father of freedom, that he freed the slaves. But if you want the real, look at Haiti. And in solidarity with our brothers and sisters there today, all of us – convicts and comrades reading these words – donate what you can. If you have no money, write to your loved ones and ask them to donate. You can send your extra stamps to the Bay View and they’ll make sure they go to the cause. I personally am pledging $40 and will be organizing a stamp drive here in my unit.

In the Nevada prison system, 10 percent of any monies we receive is taken and placed in a savings account up to $200. We are not allowed to spend this money, as it is used to bury us when we die, or it is our gate money when we leave. But if you are broke and you wanna donate to a known nonprofit charity to help the brothas and sistas in Haiti, per A.R. 258 (page 2), you may submit a DOC-515 form for approval to do so. I’ve asked the Bay View to list the name and address of a legitimate charitable organization for you to donate to.

Tu wa moja watu (we are one people)!

Editor’s note: The Bay View heartily recommends the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, which was founded by Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover and attorney Walter Riley, who heads its board and, incidentally, is the proud father of Boots Riley of The Coup. HERF has a long track record of aid and solidarity with the people of Haiti’s grassroots, who are often passed over by other organizations. Make your check or money order payable to “Haiti Emergency Relief Fund/EBSC” and mail it to East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, 2362 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704. Or donate online at http://www.haitiaction.net/About/HERF/HERF.html. All donations are tax deductible and will be acknowledged.

Send our brother some love and light. Write to: Ikemba S. Mutulu, s/n Marritte Funches, #37050, ESP, P.O. Box 1989, Ely, NV 89301.