Tensions high as budget prompts cuts at Nevada prisons

Prisoners are Humans too!

From: Las Vegas Sun

By Cy Ryan
Thursday, April 29, 2010

CARSON CITY – To make budget cuts, Nevada prisons have removed staff from visiting towers and cut back on training, said Howard Skolnik, director of the state Department of Corrections. He told the Legislative Interim Finance Committee tensions are growing at the High Desert Correctional Center at Indian Springs.

Despite the reductions, Deputy Director Jeff Mohlenkamp said the prison system would end up $2 million to $2.5 million short of money in its budget at the end of this fiscal year.

Mohlenkamp said the prison has been in the hole in past year, sometimes by as much as $3.5 million. He said the cutbacks this year mean the shortfall is less.

He said there is $1 million less coming in from inmates working at jobs in the community because there are few jobs in the sluggish economy. And there were fewer forest fires last year, meaning less revenue from the inmate work force.

The prison system was hit with a $500,000 stale claim it had to pay, Mohlenkamp said.

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, questioned why the prison didn’t go to 12-hour shifts, which would save money and reduce overtime. Skolnik replied, “Twelve won’t help us.” A study showed the prison wouldn’t save money by converting from eight- to 12-hour shifts, the director said.

“We have really shut down overtime,” Skolnik said. It is used only in life-threatening emergencies, he said.

Asked about the Southern Nevada Correctional Center near Las Vegas, Skolnik said negotiations are underway for California to use it.

He said he wants to keep the prison as a “safety valve” in case Nevada’s inmate population spikes. Correctional experts are predicting the number of inmates to grow one-half of 1 percent each year over the next five to 10 years.

Read mor ehere: Las Vegas Sun

From: Las Vegas Review Journal:

Apr. 29, 2010
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
Corrections chief says furloughs could spur violence in state prisons
By ED VOGEL
REVIEW-JOURNAL CAPITAL BUREAU

CARSON CITY — Department of Corrections Director Howard Skolnik warned legislators Thursday that violence could break out in state prisons starting in July, when he will have fewer correctional officers on duty because of mandatory furloughs.

“We are sitting on a powder keg the way things are going,” Skolnik told the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee. “I just can’t tell you when the fuse will be lit.”

Skolnik said two unprovoked attacks on correctional officers have occurred in recent weeks at Southern Desert Correctional Center in Indian Springs, where staff was limited. He had refused to authorize overtime because of the state’s budget shortfall. The unprovoked attacks were the first he could remember.

Read more here

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Mistrial declared in ‘Nevada 9’ case

From: LVRJ
Posted by John L. Smith
Wednesday, Apr. 07, 2010 at 12:36 PM

A mistrial in U.S. District Court has been declared in the civil rights case in which former state corrections officers accuse Nevada prison officials of harassment and creating a hostile workplace.

Federal Judge Philip Pro on Wednesday sent both sides back to work and scolded them for attempting to introduce exhibits into evidence at the last moment. Pro told them to prepare to return to his court fully prepared for trial in a few weeks. The judge reminded both parties in the clearest terms that “trial by ambush” is frowned upon by the court.

A hearing in the matter is set for 9 a.m. May 5.

The plaintiffs allege prison officials began a campaign of harassment after the employees promoted their union ideals on the job.

Read more here: LVRJ

http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/smith/Mistrial_declared_in_Nevada_9_case.html

Settlement in the works on Nevada prison suit

So, what about helping prisoners get medical care? We hope this is not another cover up or lost chance to get at least medical reforms to Nevada prisons.

Associated Press, via Review Journal

April 21, 2010

The state of Nevada and American Civil Liberties Union are trying to finalize an agreement to settle a class action lawsuit over medical care for inmates at the maximum security prison in Ely.

An agenda released Wednesday shows the state Board of Examiners will be asked next week to approve $325,000 in fees for the ACLU in the 2008 case thas was certified as a class action by a federal judge last year.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Reno asked for a court-ordered monitor to oversee medical care for about 1,000 inmates at the prison.

A lawyer for the attorney general’s office says an independent monitor is not part of the propose settlement, other details won’t be released until fees are approved.

Another link to this.

Mistrial declared in ‘Nevada 9’ case

From: LVRJ
Posted by John L. Smith
Wednesday, Apr. 07, 2010 at 12:36 PM

A mistrial in U.S. District Court has been declared in the civil rights case in which former state corrections officers accuse Nevada prison officials of harassment and creating a hostile workplace.

Federal Judge Philip Pro on Wednesday sent both sides back to work and scolded them for attempting to introduce exhibits into evidence at the last moment. Pro told them to prepare to return to his court fully prepared for trial in a few weeks. The judge reminded both parties in the clearest terms that “trial by ambush” is frowned upon by the court.

A hearing in the matter is set for 9 a.m. May 5.

The plaintiffs allege prison officials began a campaign of harassment after the employees promoted their union ideals on the job.

Read more here: LVRJ

http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/smith/Mistrial_declared_in_Nevada_9_case.html

Realigning the Purpose

Sent in by John Neff

Words are not to be used lightly because they are too powerful to be guidance for personal agendas imparting the wrong message for change. Something should be said about this. A wall is being built with more obstacles being stacked in our way by those already imprisoned who fling dead labels around like reasons to accommodate their circumstances. This is an injustice to the true cause at stake here: Resistance and solidarity must arise to face the real wrongs being done; not the insignificant ones.

The words racism and/or discrimination are used too freely when they rarely apply. Too many in prison like to use these terms to describe their specific circumstances in here and it takes away from the relevant facts in this matter. There is a bigger reality here and issues that concern us all. In prison, we are ALL oppressed. We are ALL discriminated against. It is the nature of our confinement. Minorities aren’t minorities in here and yet the people use it as a slap right in the face to the rest of us suffering the same plights.

The real enemy must be identified and they wear the uniforms of our captors. It’s not fair to constantly march behind a banner saturated in an ancestry no longer known when the reason we don’t have equality is because we are incarcerated; simple as that.

The same ghosts from the past do not haunt us. It is a sham to send out half-truths or to be selfish in what the goal here is supposed to be; prison reform and shedding light on the foulness of these prisons.

In here, there is no black, white or brown as far as society is concerned. In their eyes, we are all criminals who deserve nothing except the crumbs from the soles of their shoes. That is what must be changed and where the true fight lies. Not in continuing theories of racism when this applies to every man or woman in prison. Our efforts need to focus on everything for everyone; not to point fingers at things to be used as a baseless excuse.

We are all suffering the same in our circumstances. As defined, racism means a belief that a race is superior to others. Well, that does not fit the model for reform because it is authority and society who believe they are superior to each one of us. Their actions – or inactions – prove it. This is OPPRESSION.

There seems to be a need to correct the aim of being heard and to remember the reasons for it. This cause must not live inside a bubble. This fight is not meant to include some while excluding others. The individualism expressed in this unique environment with its idiosyncrasies based in racial identity is irrelevant to the nature of reform. That is not the issues outside these walls.

John Neff #54213
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301

Existing Isn’t Enough

Received from John Neff

It is absolute madness as the phantoms of volatility wreak havoc on even the most humble, peaceful man. Prison is doing its job for a society that does not even know it. We are now animals in our cages to be teased and the games of our captors have stretched beyond cruelty. The corrupted hands of those in charge and filthy from the criminality and torment that they inflict.

The regime that is turning us into doormats and daring us to challenge them is intolerable. Our festering hatred and need to do something about it is driving us crazy with fantasies of violence. This environment isn’t letting us change and it will not stop applying pressure. We are steadily losing bits of the infrastructure holding our humanity together while our captors continue to laugh at our impotence to do much about it; this is exactly as they designed it. If we snap, we are giving validation to their methods and more can be taken away.

Society needs to know what they turn a blind eye to and start to see this factory of discontent that it is engineering. How safe is anyone from those who only wish for retribution from the wrongs imposed upon them daily? This place has already reneged on its promise of rehabilitation. They’ve tossed hope into a landfill and buried it in self pity – then they set it on fire and the fire burns the color of desolation.

We are parlor tricks forced to dance for authority’s amusement. Our minds are being numbed by our circumstances while intellect diminishes from lack of stimulation. We jump when their schedule demands it and the cycle only worsens all the time with no end in sight. Time is trying to beat us into complacency with rules that serve no other purpose except to punish. The routine has us leaping through hoops to obey or else we will be denied the most basic necessity of life – food. Laws don’t protect us anymore or assure us of any fairness or even a measure of human treatment. The laws can be broken at will because even the courts will not intervene.

It costs too much to things right and the state budget allows the system of deference. They are given a license to oppress as long as society approves and since society doesn’t even know where its money or time is being wasted, it has no objections. Ignorance is the only way this system runs like this without a hitch.

Between the drab mountains of Nevada, in the vastness of its barren landscape, lie cesspools of the system’s disease. Prisons just like Ely State Prison that few really know about because it remains hidden from the populace by mirrors to deflect scrutiny and is draped in the layers of nonchalance by the tiny dot on the map it supports. The warden here wears his town like a ring on his fat finger and it has become his puppet to control just like he controls the prison. No one opposes his iron fist here. This is a dictatorship of “good ol’ boy” friendships and a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is always in place. All of the veneers may look clean and shiny but there are many dark facets to this world. Everything is only covered in the pristine white spackle of righteousness while many secrets are swept under the carpets of excuses that allow the system to overlook everything that is truly going on.

Currently, as a new day dawns with no changes forthcoming, the problems are glaring and staring at us to provoke us it seems. Just yesterday, a man was denied the human right to eat with no other recourse for nutrition available since the prison cancelled our purchase of supplemental sustenance through the canteen. In the past weeks, this has been the latest tool of abuse and has happened at least seven other times. Our food has even become involved in punishment and is leverage to satisfy morbid fascinations.

No one cares to fix it here forcing prisoners to improvise ways to fend for themselves behind a closed steel door. The question exists of how to stop what is happening? How fair is it that hired caretakers act this way without thought of repercussions? Isn’t their job contingent upon assuring every prisoner under their care the same treatment? The prison is well aware of the underlying abuses that take place but they just close their eyes to it acting like it never happened and let it persist unchecked. Where does a man turn when he is denied so much? When he only has his will to survive and has had enough? There is nothing left except his nature or his violence to get results for his suffering and even this is frowned upon. Yet, the abuses must be stopped somehow. The torment must exist through our mistakes – not our captors or this environment.

Contact those in charge to voice complaints or to ask questions to find out the truth. Or, write to me if you prefer!

John Neff #54213
ESP
PO Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301

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!

Nevada prisoners being pushed to the edge

From: SF Bay View

April 13, 2010

by Marrio Moreland

Northern Nevada Correctional Center, Carson City

I am a convicted person serving time for voluntary manslaughter in the state of Nevada. Although this letter may not digest well with some, these will be true statements and facts about how we as human beings are being subjected to abuse and retaliation for exercising the little rights we do have inside these walls and gates that is separating us from society. This is only one of many letters sent out by inmates who are incarcerated in Nevada’s Department of Correctional Centers, pleading for help and justice!

We believe that we inmates are being used for political gain due to the economy and budget cuts. We are starting to believe we are being pushed to the edge so that the Nevada prison system can justify their request for more funds. In less than 60 days there has been two unjustified assaults on two different inmates by correctional officers here at Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NNCC). The two inmates’ names are Marrio Moreland (#79800) and Anthony Lewis (#96337).

On Jan. 7, 2010, an assault occurred on inmate Marrio Moreland. He along with his cellie was removed from their cell by five correctional officers for an uncertain reason soon after breakfast. Inmate Moreland was verbally abused by a correctional officer and then viciously slammed to the ground by the same correctional officer acting on a direct order given by his lieutenant. Later, following said assault, Moreland was then sexually discriminated against.

On Feb. 26, 2010, an assault with battery occurred on an inmate named Anthony Lewis. He is in fact a person who has several disorders: 1) cracked C-2 spinal cord, 2) paralyzed on the right side, 3) he has colones, 4) he drags his right foot and 5) he depends on a wheelchair for mobility. Mr. Lewis and his cellie were returning from the shower when the officer literally pushed this gentleman from his wheelchair, pinned him to the floor and viciously banged his head on the concrete floor several times for no explainable reason.

At the time of both these two assaults the inmates were in restraints. These two assaults are two of many that has occurred here at Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NNCC). I have no other choice but to reach out this way because other attempts to find assistance have been spoiled.

Because of what’s called “abuse of authority,” the administration has a grievance complaint system in place that the inmate population no longer trusts. This administration has given correctional officers the authority to either approve or deny inmates’ rights, also the right to act as their own chain of command, by trying to do away with the inmate grievance procedure and punish us for following and exercising our rights.

This action is causing correctional officers to become very aggressive toward inmates. They are not obeying their own rules and regulations day by day yet have no fear of consequences from the administration.

As this letter is being addressed, I am housed in a segregated unit that has birds flying around inside. The birds are dropping their manure on the serving table, flying over the food while it’s being prepared, landing on the carts while the food is on the carts. The sanitation is poor, the showers are not sanitized, inmates are now being subjected to a disease called Mersa – it’s a well known disease that’s caused by poor sanitation. These acts are inhumane to a human being of the United States of America.

The statements I’ve made describe only a few barbarous actions that occur behind these gates. It’s said that each person of the United States of America should be “emancipated.” The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. Nevertheless, the great saying “liberty and justice for all” – whatever happened to that? Does it even apply to the Nevada Department of Corrections?
I am housed in a segregated unit that has birds flying around inside. The birds are dropping their manure on the serving table, flying over the food while it’s being prepared, landing on the carts while the food is on the carts.

I would like to add there’s a deaf inmate who has seizures living in a medically inadequate cell by himself. He has seizures and was saved only because of an inmate passing by and that was by the grace of God.

As I close, I pray that this letter will get to the attention of many, making them aware of the trauma that the inmates here at Northern Nevada Correctional Center are experiencing. The administration will probably retaliate against me, but what else can they do to me? They have stripped me of my dignity, so there’s nothing else to abandon me of. This is an issue that needed a voice and I am that voice.

My name is Marrio Moreland, 79800, P.O. Box 7000, Carson City, NV 89702. I’m just seeking help and justice!

AFSC Seeks Stories of Isolation and Torture in U.S. Prisons

April 4, 2010
From: SolitaryWatch

by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

In 2001, the Prison Watch Project of the American Friends Service Committee published Torture in U.S. Prisons: Evidence of U.S. Human Rights Violations, a unique collection of first-hand testimonies from prisoners. (A pdf copyof is available here.) Now, Prison Project coordinator Bonnie Kerness has put out a call for submissions for a new edition.

AFSC, through its STOPMAX Campaign, has resolutely identified prolonged solitary confinement as a form of torture and a violation of human rights, so material from current or former prisoners who have experienced solitary will be most welcome. The announcement is reproduced in full below–please help spread the word.

The American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch Project is planning to update the Fall 2001 “Torture in US Prisons – Evidence of US Human Rights Violations.” We are seeking testimonies from men, women and children relating to the use of extended isolation and devices of torture (use of force, chemical and physical restraints, other living conditions, forced double celling in isolation, etc.). We will also be accepting drawings and photos.

Our deadline is June 15th. We will only be able to acknowledge by form letter. Unless otherwise authorized the publication will use first name, last initial and facility only. Please send to

Bonnie Kerness,
AFSC,
89 Market St.,
6th floor,
Newark, NJ 07102

Please make this message available to people concerned with the prison system and send it to friends and loved ones in prison. Without your input, this publication would not be possible. Our gratitude.

Sincerely,
AFSC Prison Watch Project

Director of Nevada prison system under investigation

Las Vegas, NV– The director of the Nevada prison system is under investigation by Metro.

An employee at High Desert State Prison filed a report at the end of February, claiming Howard Skolnik got angry during a meeting with about 30 medical staffers and threatened to shoot them with a shotgun and sniper rifle.

A prison spokeswoman tell us Skolnik doesn’t own either type of weapon.

She also says he can’t comment because of the investigation, but adds he’s not concerned about the outcome.

No charges have been filed in the case.