VERA: Oversight Status Report Regarding the Nevada Department of Corrections

VERA, Institute of Justice, produced this 52 page report recently, after a year of researching what could be improved within the prisons in Nevada (which would mean: a lot has to be improved, otherwise we would not exist).

Title:

Oversight Status Report Regarding the Nevada Department of Corrections:
A Report of the Corrections Support and Accountability Project
JULY 2010

The report can be read here:

http://www.doc.nv.gov/Vera_Oversight_Status_Report_for_NDOC_July_2010.pdf (PDF)

The executive summary:

The Vera Institute of Justice is pleased to present this report of the Corrections Support and Accountability Project. The Project partners us with five jurisdictions – two states and three counties – to help each partner jurisdiction develop meaningful oversight of its prisons or jails specifically tailored to its needs.

This report, and the recommendations summarized below, is the result of partnership
with and the dedication of several Nevada State agencies, including the Nevada
Department of Corrections and the Nevada Board of State Prison Commissioners, as well
as the participation of other individuals and agencies, including the Nevada Legislature, the Governor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Secretary of State’s Office, United States District Court for the District of Nevada, American Federation of State and Municipal Employees, Nevada Corrections Association and individual inmate advocates.

In particular, this work would not have been possible without the leadership of Director Skolnik, who was incredibly accommodating and willing to open up his Department to this review. With the help of these participants we investigated the current mechanisms of correctional accountability and transparency already in place in the NDOC. This process included visits to prison facilities, numerous interviews, research, and meetings with NDOC staff and administrators and stakeholders to determine the most pressing oversight needs of Nevada’s correctional system.

At the time of this report, NDOC has made progress implementing several of these
recommendations. We believe that, with time and the cooperation of other Nevada
stakeholders, implementing the remaining recommendations will enable the state to better evaluate the use of resources to support NDOC, identify inefficiencies, manage risk, measure the success and failures of programs and policies in order to guide future decision-making, build public confidence and public interest in NDOC, and promote good governance and professionalism. While we recognize that some of the
recommendations may be aspirational during these economic times, many are costeffective and may lead to long-term savings. Others should be considered for
implementation when it is financially feasible.

The recommendations are provided in summary below for convenience. We encourage a full review of the report to understand the context and reasoning behind each of the recommendations.

1. Conduct more formal and regular audits of both southern and northern
facilities.
2. Create formal follow-up for problems identified during internal audits.
3. Improve tracking system for inmate grievances and generate regular reports.
4. Resolve more inmate grievances at the facility level.
5. Consider creating a citizens review board for the inmate grievance process.
6. Implement a staff survey.
7. Provide pro bono attorneys for inmates in the Inmate Early Mediation
Program.
8. Keep more investigations at the facility level.
9. Provide additional training on NOTIS for staff at all levels.
10. Train select staff to run reports in NOTIS.
11. Set internal performance measures and formalize internal data sharing.
12. Provide more information to Board of State Prison Commission members and
in a timely manner.
13. Clarify the role of the Board.
14. Develop system for following up on concerns received at public meetings.
15. Create an ombudsman to handle complaints by inmates, staff and the public.
16. Make certain reports and evaluations available to the public.
17. Develop a publicly available data dashboard.
18. Create a dedicated Public Information Officer position.

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