High Desert State Prison (HDSP) News

Sent in to us on 10-24-10 by an inmate at HDSP:
An update on this post.

Units 5 A/B and 5 C/D are now Level 4 housing units.
Units 6 A/B and 6 C/D are Level 3.

Level 4 only gets showers every 3 days. No yard, no day room, no phone, no appliances.
It´s worse than the hole (disciplinary lock-up).

There were two incidents (Oct 13th 2010, we believe – ed.) where live rounds were fired, inmates injured due to racial riots among Whites-Mexicans-Blacks.

Tensions are high, weapons were used and things don´t look good.

The prison staff don´t seem to realize that inmates need jobs plus education or some sort of activity to utilize their time, or situations such as this will only get worse.

They need to start a program like California has called the M.A.C. (Man & Con) Program, it allows us to have an inmate Advisory Board set up to work with staff to help better overall conditions.

But warden Neven and Baca don´t want to act upon or care about what inmates need, their poor leadership is pushing the prison into a war zone and pretty soon it´s gonna get to a breaking point that no one will be able to overcome its fall-out.

Advertisements

Wrongful Death Lawsuit in case for Nolan Klein´s wrongful death

From Justicefornolanklein.com:

This Wrongful Death Suit will allow Nolan’s innocence to continue on.

One of the damages: Newly discovered evidence found in the Washoe County District Attorney’s file has been hidden since Nolan’s arrest.

Now a jury will hear the facts of Nolan’s criminal case and it will no longer be left up to the Courts that continue to protect the wrongdoings of the Washoe County DA’s office.

See here for the complete text of the suit.

High Desert State Prison: live rounds fired to stop uprising

We are getting short notes from High Desert State Prison, Indian Springs, NV, that there have been riots and/or attempts of uprisings over the last few weeks. On 13th of October 2010, according to a letter received by NPW from someone inside HDSP:

“They fired 7 live rounds to stop another uprising in units 5 C/D Level3. They have now turned (unit) 5 A/B and 5 C/D into level 4 status, and the conditions are as such or worse than the “hole”: showers every 3 days, no yard, no tier time, no phone.

The food and living conditions are beyond belief.

The Administration should realize that you have to give men education, work, or some form of activity in order to help them learn to be productive. But the wardens and staff here don´t care about that. We are nothing more than a stocks quote or head count. Humans have become a commodity now, we´re treated just like live stock.”

From a letter dated 10-18-2010 from a prisoner in High Desert State Prison, Indian Springs, Nevada.

E.S.P. Book Drive

You can help change someone’s life! There is nothing more invigorating, nothing more liberating than knowledge! Books can definitely change people’s lives, and who needs help with changing their lives more than the people in prison? It has already been proven that education is the most powerful tool against recidivism, yet prisoners sit in their cells going mentally numb, getting more aggressive and deteriorating intellectually, spiritually and physically, just wasting away behind steel and stone, until the day they are released and returned back into our communities!

This is a chance to make a difference; to have an impact on someone’s life. This is a chance for people out there to really get involved in something significant. We need you to help us bring meaning and productivity to these prisoners lives! Please, help us do something positive; something that will definitely make a difference. Help us give these prisoners something important to think about, help us raise their level of consciousness and break them from the shackles of the gangster, pimp and criminal mentalities that confine them to self-destruction and perpetual misery.

Help us get books together for these men who sit in their cells staring at the walls all day. People throw books away every day. We need those books. We want you to help us donate those books to the Ely State Prison library; we want you to help us help these people who will be returning back to society. We want you to help us help these people who deserve a second chance. Help them realize they deserve a second chance! We can do that by bringing hope, meaning, and knowledge into their lives through books. we need you to help us with this possible life-changing project!

Any book you can donate will be appreciated, and put to good use, no matter what kind of book it is. Our mission here, however, is to turn the E.S.P. library into a real library. The E.S.P. library already has lots and lots of horror novels, sci-fi novels, fantasy and romance, but lacks anything of real educational value. So, we want you to help us provide any type of book that will allow prisoners to think and comprehend things on a higher, or deeper level.

We want educational books; anything that has some type of educational value, or that will provide real intellectual stimulation. All books will be accepted and appreciated, and books that we are particularly looking for are basically any type of books on:

• History
• Any type of self-help book
• Dictionaries, thesaurus, encyclopedias, almanacs, vocabulary builders, etc.
• Philosophy
• Psychology and/or sociology
• Anthropology
• Text books of all kinds
• Non-fictional books, true stories, current events, etc.
• Books on business, economics, law, etc.
• Poetry, classics, literature, etc.
• Autobiographies, memoirs and biographies
• Books on science (any branch of science, from astronomy to palaeontology, whatever)
• Good fiction novels that could possibly have a life-changing impact on a prisoner’s mind
• Books about prison, or written by prisoners, who have changed their lives while in prison (these stories are always inspirational and helpful for those incarcerated)
• Any books on politics, revolutionary science, prominent figures and leaders
• Cultural studies: Latino, African American, Native American, Asian, The Celts, The Romans, The Greeks, The Egyptians, Aztecs, Mayans, etc.
• Political books (on anarchism, communism, socialism, etc.)
• Theology, Theosophy, etc.
• Books on different languages
• Geography
• Best sellers, Pulitzer prize winners, etc.
• Esoteric studies, masonic literature, symbolism, etc.
• Health, medical encyclopedia, physical fitness, etc.

Any book that you have, that you don’t want, or need any more, any book that you think would be uplifting, educational, or inspirational to prisoners, please send them to:

White Pine County School District
Mountain High School
1135 Avenue C
Ely, Nevada 89301
Attention: Ms. Thiel / E.S.P. Library Donations

Please make sure to go through all of your books, removing money, papers or anything that you may have left inside of your books, because the officers will thoroughly inspect each book before they are inducted into the E.S.P. Library.

Please talk to your friends, family, co-workers and classmates, ask them if they have any old books that they don’t want or need any more. We really want you to help us turn the E.S.P. library into a real library. Help us bring meaning and positive change to these prisoner’s lives.

There is no rehabilitation, no programs, no real educational/vocational opportunities for these guys incarcerated at Ely State Prison. We want you to help us give them that opportunity, we want you to help us help them. We want you to help us liberated these prisoners’ minds and transform their lives through knowledge, education and higher learning. Please get involved in this life-changing project. There’s nothing more empowering than knowledge! Thank you for your time and concern.

Solidarity and Respects
From Someone Who Cares

ps if you plan to send in any books, please if possible let us know via email (Nevadaprisonwatch at gmail.com) which books you donated, because the person who organized this would like to know if all the books are indeed going to the library.

Giving Blood for Credits II: A Positive Initiative for the 2011 Nevada Legislature Hearings

We published this initiative earlier this year, but since this is the last month to have it placed on the docket for the 2011 Nevada Legislature hearings, it is time to focus on the plan of Jeremy again:

By Jeremy Allen Crozier

It is recommended that each township in the United States of America maintains a minimum of a three (3) day blood reserve in its community blood bank for everyday use by our Nation’s medical professionals, for blood transfusions, medical emergencies, surgeries, and other related medical needs. According to the United Blood Services website (www.unitedbloodservices.org) it is estimated that sixty (60) percent of the population will need donated blood, or blood components sometime during their life times. It is further noted by the United States Government, independent study groups, foundations, and non-profit organizations such as the United Blood Services for example, that a three (3) day blood reserve in a township’s blood bank still would not be enough to meet the community’s demands, and needs during times of large scale emergencies such as natural disasters, plagues, or the unprecedented growing concern of virus, and diseases such as hepatitis, and HIV.

Unfortunately, the fact is, that cities and townships across America, and those of the Great State of Nevada on average, only are able to maintain one-half of a day’s worth of donated blood, and blood components inside of their community’s blood bank. Thus, causing wide-spread shortages in the availability of the life saving donated blood in our Nation’s hospitals, and with our emergency care providers, and it has regretfully, and painstakingly forced many health care providers, and doctors to choose between patients who will receive the much needed, and life sustaining donated blood, and those patients who will not receive it. Even despite the surreal fact, that many of the critically-ill patients who do not receive a blood transfusion, could have lived, and enjoyed a productive, and successful prolonged life, had it not been for the severe shortages of donated blood in our communities across America.

No one single source can account for the shortage of blood in our Nation’s blood reserves in America than that of a severe lack of “willing blood donors.” Blood donation is a simple procedure, which takes approximately five (5) minutes, or less, and only produces a “pinch-like” discomfort in the donor’s arm that lasts not more than a fraction of a second. Organizations and community leaders have gone to great lengths to promote, and entice potential donors to blood-A-thon type campaigns for what has amounted to half a day’s worth of blood reserve in our community blood banks on average. Incentives of money, prizes, market place discounts, employer paid days off from work, and even all expense paid vacations to lavish luxury resorts have failed to produce enough blood donors to meet even the minimum recommended requirements for our everyday medical needs.

Yet, many states in the Union have found a willing, and ready supply of blood donors in the Nation’s prisons. Inmates have proven time, and time again, that they will meet their communities’ blood supply needs in full. In return for their willing blood donations, and blood components, which save lives, the inmate blood donors are offered minimal incentives of eighteen (18) days credit per a blood donation every eight (8) weeks, which is the time needed for an individual to fully recover between blood donations.

There is no cost whatsoever to the State’s tax payers, nor to the Department of Corrections for blood donations as all the cost of the donation procedures are passed onto the patients who receive the donated blood, and their insurance companies. Furthermore, victim’s rights groups, and state tax payers have stated that they prefer this method of “Good time credits” and cost control compared to the current “Good time credit” system, which allows inmates to receive days off of their sentence for no other reason than sitting in prison, and the states increasing budget crisis. Most noted in recent years was the Nevada Legislature’s doubling of the “Good time credits” in the year of 2007, for category “C” and under felonies. This was the Nevada Legislature’s bandaid solution to their state’s depleting budget, which angered victims of crime, and victim’s rights groups everywhere. As Ashley O’Neal stated, who was also a victim of a brutal crime, “Why should inmates receive ‘Good time credits’ for sitting in prison, and committing crimes? They should be required to give back to the victims, and communities they took from during the commissions of their crimes before they receive any time off of their sentences.”

The blood taken from inmates undergoes strict scrutiny and screening at a blood center laboratory, and is then typed, labeled, stored at the proper temperature, and distributed to area hospitals to help save patients’ lives. In states such as Wisconsin for example, inmate blood donors have met what has been called a community crisis, through their willing donations of blood. In return, these inmate blood donors serve their communities, and obtain a sense of community pride, and a sense of satisfaction for meeting a nation wide medical crisis. “In Nevada, 96.7% of all inmates will be returning to townships, communities, and neighborhoods, and we must begin to ask ourselves if we as citizens in Nevada, want former inmates to return from our state’s prisons with a community connection, or who we as Nevada citizens, have completely isolated, cut-off, and otherwise excommunicated from our society for years,” stated Joe O’Neal.

The State of Nevada currently has no such programs for reconnecting inmates to their communities whatsoever, even despite common sense solutions as the “Blood for Credits” inmate blood donation program presented in this article, which is estimated to save the Nevada tax payers 420 million dollars over the next ten (10) years when compared to our hard bed prison cost per an inmate over the same time period according to the Organization Nevada Accountability. A blood donation program in our state’s prison system remains an issue for the Nevada Legislature, yet they continue to argue, and weigh the benefits of the cost of cutting measures limiting our Nevada citizens’ rights to government spent tax dollars, and none of the body of Nevada legislatures have taken up the “Blood for Credits” recommendations. A program that would not only serve our Nevada communities, but decrease our state’s budget, and prison problems, while increasing stable community programs, and awareness. Perhaps it is time for Nevada citizens to weigh in our opinions for our community leaders during the 2010 election season.

Author’s Note:

The State of Nevada, and its elected leaders, creates laws and policies for their department of corrections to solve problematic issues, which other states have experienced, and successfully solved years ago. Most intriguing is that these same elected leaders have no knowledge, nor invested interest, nor experience in the problematic issues, which they set out to solve. Even their half-hearted attempts visiting the state’s prisons are spent tucked, and hidden away by prison administration officials, and their movements are controlled as to not allow them to realize the vast deficiencies inside our state prisons. Some even search for the nearest exit, such as Hardesty of the ACAJ Steering Committee, instead of finding proper long term solutions.

The question should be of simple nature for Nevada Legislatures: Isn’t it time to demand that we look towards and adopt other states´ laws, policies, regulations and practices that have met and achieved the highest standards of scrutiny such as the Blood for Credits program? Why do they need to continue to waste tax dollars, and valuable time creating band-aid solutions, which often turn out causing more damage, tax dollars, and everyone’s time in the end? Who ever told the Nevada politicians that they have a monopoly on good ideas?

If you wish to comment on this article, contact:

Author: Jeremy Allen Crozier
#77906 / ESP
PO Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301

Or contact the following if you find this plan a good and realistic one:

Senator Steven Horsford
3450 W. Cheyenne Avenue, Suite 100
North Las Vegas, NV 89032-8223
shorsford@sen.state.nv.us

Assemblyman William Horne
2251 North Rampart Boulevard, #357
Las Vegas, NV 89128-7640
whorne@asm.state.nv.us

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea
(Eureka, Pershing, White Pine Counties, and portions of Churchill, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, and Washoe Counties, No. 35)
PO Box 97
Eureka, NV 89316-0097
pgoicoechea@asm.state.nv.us

Nevada gets F in treatment of pregnant inmates

SANDRA CHEREB • Associated Press Writer • October 21, 2010

Reno Gazette Journal

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – The state received a failing grade for its treatment of inmate mothers and pregnant women in a new report issued Thursday, but a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections took exception to the findings, and the report itself suggested at least some of the criticism was based not on state practices but the lack of a written policy.

The 50-state survey released by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights analyzed state and federal prison policies on three criteria: prenatal care, use of shackles, and alternatives to incarceration for pregnant women and mothers with young children. Nevada received an overall grade of F and was among 21 states to receive a grade of D or lower.

Only one state, Pennsylvania, received an A.

Nevada received a failing grade for prenatal care and lack of family-based treatment programs for nonviolent inmates who are mothers, and a D for use of restraints on pregnant women.

“Too many women in prison fail to receive adequate prenatal care, are shackled during childbirth and don’t have the option of family based drug treatment programs that would allow them to be with their children,” Jill C. Morrison, senior counsel with the National Women’s Law Center and co-author of the study, said in a written statement.

“It’s shameful that so many states fail to have laws and policies to protect this vulnerable population of unseen and largely forgotten women,” she said.

Suzanne Pardee, spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections, said prenatal care is provided as soon as an inmate’s pregnancy becomes known.

Nevada currently has 916 female inmates. There were 24 pregnant inmates in 2009, and 25 so far this year, she said.

Read more here.

Dear Society, hate will never cure crime


Dear Society, hate will never cure crime
October 18, 2010

by Ikemba S. Mutulu, s/n Marritte Funches
From: SF Bay View

Ikemba writes on behalf of the young men in prison: “We need a comprehensive correspondence course, free to convicts, teaching leadership and community organization. We need a free-books-for-prisoners program and a legal aid group.”

Reading the Nevada Prisoners’ Newsletter today, I learned of the death of my friend Bro. Muteen (Robert Brown), caused by the state’s deliberate indifference to his medical needs while caged in the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. As I mourn this beautiful brotha’s passing, my heart rages over the loss of another life that could’ve been saved. And in spite of the state’s rejoicing, having rid itself of a worthy opponent, at the same time making room for another body and paycheck, I know that Bro. Muteen left this field of battle in victory. Finally free of all the bullshit.

He died honorably, unbroken and on his feet.

When I say this was a friend of mine, I mean I prayed with this man. We spoke at length on many subjects, like how to reach these young men, the importance of exposing to the world what’s going on behind these walls, organizing our own education programs etc.

This was an amazing brotha, who dedicated his life to helping others. He worked tirelessly learning the law to become a “jailhouse lawyer.” And he was largely responsible for my successful defense against some false charges back in ‘07.

Even against the threats of the crooked warden here at Ely State Prison, Bro. Muteen helped me, secretly working for months on the various motions and briefs I filed. And indeed when they found out, he was fired from his job in the law library.

He died shut away in Nevada’s dungeons but never shut up. He got a lot of respect and took great pride in helping other convicts fight for their rights and their freedom in the courts.

This is what happens when men and women in prison stand up to the state administration. They shut us up in the hole, isolate us from the population, relentlessly harass and deprive us of our basic human rights.

Here we are trying to make a difference with our lives, trying to help heal our broken communities and pull these young men – some only boys – away from that criminal gangster deathstyle, often at great sacrifice to ourselves.

Yet you, society, accepting the lies of this prison for profit machine, the media, the state, you view us all as monsters. You say “good riddance” when the pigs murder us or allow us to suffer and die from a curable illness. And despite all of the mountains of evidence created by DNA testing, exposing the flaws and corruption inherent in the system.

(photo: Nevada State Prison Cemetery)

Have you thought that you might be celebrating the death or suffering of an innocent man or woman? Or maybe their lives were such that crime was the only way out, the only way to feed their family, the only way to keep some sense of dignity. And maybe in prison they found a new way and were remorseful for the mistakes they made.

Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr. went to prison? That Malcolm X was born in a cell? Nelson Mandela did 28 years. Jesus died on death row.

Do you know what a political prisoner is?

I’m sick of society’s ignorance and refusal to see the truth. It’s been a minute since they did it in Attica and New Mexico. And it’s been 40 years since the young comrade Jonathan Jackson and his brilliant brother, Comrade George, forced you all to see just how deeply this problem of prisons and these corrupt courts are affecting the people.

Must history repeat itself? How many more like Bro. Muteen must die needlessly, sailing our prayers into the dark, hoping you, society, will wake up? Who prescribes more poison to cure poison?

Hate will never cure crime. Maybe the movement needs its own earthquake to shake things up. But instead of shifting tectonic plates, it’ll be the stomping of fed up feet tearing down these concrete walls – demanding freedom and equal justice and an end to oppression of the poor.

I honor the names of my true teachers, men and women like Assata, Che and Huey – and too many more to name. But without them, nothing you know would be as it is. Understand what it is I am saying to you, Society. I don’t want to kill anymore, and I don’t want these young men to start killing or to be chewed up by this prison for profit industry.

So I’m reaching out to YOU for help to reach these young men here. Nevada has nothing. We need a comprehensive correspondence course, free to convicts, teaching leadership and community organization. We need a free-books-for-prisoners program and a legal aid group.

These are the things myself and men like Bro. Muteen have been striving towards. But we need your help. Go to the website Augustinitiative.org to see the beginnings of what we’ve been working on. This was begun with the help of a single comrade across the water. And from this, NevadaPrisonWatch.org and the Nevada Prisoners’ Newsletter were developed.

But unfortunately, the little progress we’ve made is in danger of falling apart, unless we can find a few helping hands here at home. We do not want your money. In fact, neither I nor anyone associated with the August Initiative will accept personal donations of money from volunteers.

We need you, your hands, your ideas, your support. So as I began this letter to society solely as a process of mourning the loss of a loved one, I end with hope that you will help me to continue planting the seeds.

Send our brother some love and light. Write to Ikemba S. Mutulu, s/n Marritte Funches, 37050, P.O. Box 1989, Ely, NV 89301, marrittefunches@yahoo.com, Augustinitiative.org.

Abolishing the Death Penalty in Nevada

By Dahn Shaulis, Ph.D.
NDOC Caseworker (2001-2007)

In Nevada, I can tell you from my professional experience that Death Row does not house “the worst of the worst.” Historically, the Death Penalty in Nevada has been fraught with injustice based on inequalities of race and class. “Mitigating” and “aggravating” factors are particularly racially biased (see this link)

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2002/Feb-12-Tue-2002/news/18077588.html

While its difficult to know for sure that an innocent person has died in the Nevada Death Chamber, I do know that Victor Jimenez and Roberto Miranda were both released after serving years on Death Row. Mr. Miranda settled out of court for $5,000,000 in 2006.

http://www.nlada.org/DMS/Documents/1089316454.29/24212850.html

I can also tell you that anecdotally, one can look at those who have not received the Death Penalty, offenders such as Chaz Higgs and Darren Mack, and realize that the Death Penalty is not dealt out evenly. Corporate and governmental actions which can cause much more social damage and death are not even considered capital crimes.

Arguments Against the Death Penalty

1. First, and most importantly, the Death Penalty is a punishment that violates contemporary and evolving “standards of decency” held in the Western industrialized world.

The US trails the worldwide long-term humanitarian trend to abolish the Death Penalty. Since World War II, nearly one hundred nations have abolished the Death Penalty or created long moratoriums. The Vatican consistently opposes the Death Penalty while Methodists argue that “the Death Penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings.” Witnesses to executions such as Pastor Carroll Picket, a former Texas prison chaplain, have articulated the immoral and barbaric nature of killing people to show killing is wrong.

Most of the nations who maintain and use the Death Penalty have extensive human rights problems. The US joins China, Vietnam, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq as one of a few nations that continues to regularly execute people. Japan and Singapore are the only other highly industrialized nations to carry out capital punishment.

The abolition of the US Death Penalty would not be unique. Executions were prohibited in the US from 1972 to 1976 after the Furman v. Georgia decision. In the last decade, the Supreme Court has determined that executions of mentally retarded individuals (2002) and juveniles (2005) violated the 8th Amendment and were unconstitutional. The US, though, continues to execute mentally ill people and non-citizens which is a violation of international law.

While The American Medical Association confusingly allows doctors to participate in executions, it also states “a physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution.”

The number of executions has been decreasing since its peak in 1999, as further questions about the nature of state-sponsored killing are examined. The number of people in the US sentenced to death has also been falling nationally from about 300 a year in the 1990s to 115 people in 2007. Even in Texas, the number of people sentenced to death has been decreasing significantly, reduced to only 11 people in 2008.

In 2003, Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted sentences of all Death Row inmates after finding that the Chicago Police had used torture to exact confessions. As of 2008, Illinois still has a moratorium on the Death Penalty.

Although most Americans favor the Death Penalty, 64% do not believe the death penalty serves as a deterrent and only 57% of Americans believe the death penalty is fairly applied. “Nonwhites” and people with more education are most skeptical of the death. Almost all Americans (92%) also believe that someone has been wrongly executed in the last five years (Gallup Poll).

Although 37 states allow the Death Penalty, few actually practice executions more than once every two years, and those states are almost exclusively traditional sites of slavery and racism. New York and Kansas have not executed anyone since the 1973 moratorium. In 2007, a national moratorium was placed until lethal injection questions could be answered. The state of New York also ruled that its Death Penalty was unconstitutional. In 2008, New Jersey placed a moratorium on its death penalty. Legislatures in New Mexico, Montana, Nebraska and Maryland are within a few votes of eliminating the death penalty. In 2008, The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment reported that (1) racial and geographic disparities exist in how the death penalty is applied, (2) death penalty cases are more costly than non-death penalty cases and take a greater toll on the survivors of murder victims, and (3) there is no persuasive evidence that risk of execution is a deterrent to crime, and the unavailability of DNA evidence in some cases opens the “real possibility” of wrongly executing an innocent person.

Pro-Death Penalty proponents claim that this particular type of killing is about the rights of victims. But the Death Penalty does not bring closure to most victims. The Death Penalty feeds retribution and revenge impulses rather than the positive values of redemption, rehabilitation and healing.

2. The US Death penalty is inconsistent and arbitrary.

After conducting a three-year, eight-state study of the Death Penalty, the American Bar Association concluded that the administration of capitol punishment is “a haphazard maze of unfair practices with no internal consistency,” and called for a moratorium (ABA, 2006). The primary method of distinguishing those who receive the death penalty from those who do not is a state-by-state system of disparate aggravating and mitigating factors (Kirchmeier, 2006).

The chance a person charged with a capital crime lives or dies depends on where the crime was committed. Capital punishment is not permitted in the District of Columbia and 13 states: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. About half of all recent executions occur in only four counties, all in the state of Texas. In 2007, Texas held 26 of the 42 US executions, where the amount of money spent on appeals is miniscule. In 2008, 18 of 37 US executions were held in Texas.

Pro-death penalty advocates claim the death penalty is imposed on society’s most heinous criminals (incorrectly labeled as “the worst of the worst”), yet no serious scholars could argue that crimes are adjudicated in proportion to the damage and suffering they cause society (Reiman). If the Death Penalty were applied in proportion to the deaths and social and economic damage created, a significant number of white collar criminals, business executives, and government officials would receive the Death Penalty. However, wealthy offenders rarely get the death penalty. Informants who can make deals and provide information are also spared and sometimes released. Serial killers who provide information on killings may also spared and in extreme cases, released.

3. The Death Penalty is unfairly and disproportionately meted out on poor people and people of color.

Pro-Death Penalty researchers do not deny that the application of the Death Penalty is racist (Shepherd, 2004) and classist. Racism pervades the criminal justice system, ranging from racial profiling prior to arrest to post-conviction representation.

There is an extensive body of literature that due process is profoundly affected by economic class. Pro-Death Penalty advocates even agree that a viable defense is expensive and that it pays to be rich if you have been accused of killing someone. Eighty to 95% of all people on Death Row cannot afford a private lawyer. In an economy where one gets what he or she pays for, private attorneys often get 2000% more money for a capital case than a court-appointed attorney. This allows wealthy killers like Robert Durst, for example, to avoid prison.

The General Accounting Office (1990) reviewed more than 50 studies of race and punishment and found “a pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing and imposition of the death penalty.” The victim’s race is also important in whether one gets the death penalty. Juries are six times more likely to give the death penalty to those who have been accused of killing a White person. Thirty-four percent (34%) of all people executed in America since 1976 have been Black.

In McCleskey v. Georgia (1987), the Supreme Court ruled that state death penalty laws are constitutional even when statistics indicate they had been applied in racially biased ways.

Racism plays a huge role in determining who dies. In one glaring example, Texas law enforcement authorities picked Clarence Lee Brandley from among many suspects in a circumstantial case of rape and murder of a white woman. As authorities told Brandley- convicted but released in 1989 after being exonerated-“You’re the nigger, so you’re elected”.

Pro-Death Penalty adherents claim “any racial combinations of defendants and/or their victims in death penalty cases, is a reflection of the crimes committed and not any racial bias within the system.” These adherents base this argument from studies that do not explain why people of color are more likely to hold these aggravating factors. For example, robbery and burglary are the most common “aggravating factors” for earning a death sentence from a homicide. People from lower economic strata are much more likely to commit such crimes for economic reasons not as planned murders.

Juries are not a random selection of the citizenry, but hand-selected individuals who all, without exception, swear to favor the death penalty. In Dallas, Texas, the DA’s office prepared a manual for new staff, which said: “You are not looking for a fair juror, but rather a strong, biased and sometimes hypocritical individual who believes that Defendants are different from them in kind, rather than degree…You are not looking for any member of a minority group which may subject him to suppression-they almost always empathize with the accused…Minority races almost always empathize with the Defendant.” (Cockburn)

The Death Penalty allows racists to participate in the process while eliminating or minimizing others from the process. Cases of judicial and prosecutorial racial animus are well documented (Cockburn). Texas has an infamous history of racist district attorneys and judges. In Texas, no White person has ever been executed for killing a Black person. In Harris County, Texas, the District Attorney pursued the death sentence against black and white defendants at the same rate even though black defendants committed less heinous murders (Phillips, 2008).

No white person has been executed for the murder of a black in Georgia, nor has the death penalty ever been sought in such a case. Of the 12 blacks executed in Georgia since 1983, six were sentenced in cases where prosecutors succeeded in removing all potential black jurors.

4. The Death Penalty may increase violence by its brutalizing effect. Evidence supporting the Death Penalty as a deterrent lies “outside the bounds of credibility.”

Several studies indicate that the Death Penalty may create a “brutalizing effect.” In a study of 27 states, Emory researcher Joanna Shepherd (2005) reported that the Death Penalty deterred murder in six states, increased murder in 13 states, and had no effect on the murder rate in eight states. Sheppard added that this brutalization effect resulted in 250 additional murders per year. Studies of the Death Penalty in Arizona (Thomson, 1997) and Oklahoma (Cochran et al, 1994) reported that executions were related to increased murders. States with the highest number of Death Row inmates and the highest execution rates have the most number of law enforcement officers killed. Psychologically, violent people may decide to kill more than one person, including police, if they know they may get the Death Penalty anyway.

Studies suggesting that the death penalty serves as a deterrent are seriously flawed and fail tests of robustness and replication (Fagan, 2006). Columbia University law professor Jeffrey Fagan (2005) notes that these studies contain crucial technical and conceptual errors, including inappropriate methods of statistical analysis, failures to consider all relevant factors that drive murder rates, missing data on key variables in key states, weak to non-existent tests of concurrent effects of incarceration, and other deficiencies. University of Chicago Law School professor Cass Sunstein (2008) states that “existing studies contain significant statistical errors, and slightly different approaches yield widely varying findings, a problem exacerbated by researchers’ tendency to report only those results supporting their conclusions.”

Yale and Wharton professors John J. Donahue and Justin Wolfers (2006) state “We show that with the most minor tweaking of the [research] instruments, one can get estimates ranging from 429 lives saved per execution to 86 lives lost. These numbers are outside the bounds of credibility.”

UCLA researcher Richard A. Berk (2005) reports that studies showing the death penalty as a deterrent have a limited number of observations (executions are rare in most states). Berk suggests that Texas justice, where most of the data points exist, is the only place where the death penalty may serve as a deterrent.

Sorenson et al. (1999) questioned the deterrence value of executions even in Texas, finding no relationship between execution rates and murder rates.

According to Paul R. Zimmerman (2006), only electrocution, which is frequently horrific, has a deterrent effect.

Researchers argue that commuting sentences results in increased deaths in the community. But this argument supports abolition of the Death Penalty in the long run, because commutations will always occur.

Many other larger factors appear to have stronger relationships with homicide rates, including economics, better policing, age demographics, gun laws, drug laws, and legalized abortion. Because of these limitations, pro-death penalty researchers can only honestly suggest that the Death Penalty might be a slight deterrent (Keckler, 2006).

Death Penalty states have significantly higher murder rates than states without the Death Penalty.

The murder rate declined in Canada after capital punishment was abolished.

Only a small percentage of criminologists and police administrators believe the Death Penalty has much, if any, deterrent value.

University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt points out the “creative” use of data by Death Penalty proponents. Leavitt adds that “no rational criminal should be deterred by the death penalty, since the punishment is too distant and too unlikely to merit much attention.”

State laws in the US vary in their definitions of “premeditation.” In some states, premeditation can be interpreted as taking place a few seconds before the murder. Burglars and robbers, for example, rarely plan to murder, but situations get out of control and people may be killed. The offenders who do make advanced plans are often involved in heavily emotional situations are not focusing upon deterrence. Those realities, along with the fact that most offenders feel they will never be caught, negate the effects of deterrence for most offenses.

Because Death Penalty proponents can only weakly claim that Life without Parole is less safe than the death penalty, they have to believe there is a “general effect” caused by making the public fearful. In effect, the Death Penalty is used as a fear and control mechanism by the State.

5. The Death Penalty is costly.

New Jersey, which repealed its Death Penalty, estimated that it could have saved more than $200 million if it had not reinstated the Death Penalty. Recent studies in Tennessee, Kansas, Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, and Maryland have all concluded that costs associated with death penalty cases are significantly higher than those associated with Life without Parole cases. Where the Death Penalty is less costly, such as Texas, the State is willing to minimize appeals which may result in wrongful executions. The costs are even greater when the cost of capital punishment is weighed against the opportunity costs of using scarce resources on prevention.

6. A number of Death Row inmates have been exonerated. Innocent people have been executed.

When people are aware that innocent people have been executed they are more likely to believe that the Death Penalty is wrong. The number exonerated since 1973 has been estimated between 34 and 133. Pro-death penalty experts admit that at least 30 to 40 people have been exonerated and released from Death Row since 1973. Northwestern University Law School details at least 39 executions, a majority in Texas, that have been carried out in the US in the face of “compelling evidence of innocence or serious doubt about guilt.”

After reviewing the Death Penalty in Oklahoma, former LAPD detective Mark Furman stated “I no longer believe in the death penalty. I no longer have faith that it is administered fairly or justly. I fear that innocent people have been executed. That’s why I’m calling for the abolition of the death penalty, not only in Oklahoma, but in every state.”

Many exonerees have suffered more than a decade on Death Row. Pro-Death Penalty proponents accept these casualties and expect innocent people sentenced to Death to be proven innocent rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.

NPW´s comments on the Vera Progress Report of September 2010

Here are NPW´s comments to some of the points made in the report of the:

VERA Institute of Justice
Action plan for the Nevada Department of Corrections
The Corrections Support and Accountability Project
September 2010
http://www.doc.nv.gov/Vera_Action_Plan_for_NDOC_September_2010.pdf

The Vera words are in italics, our comments are following each section.

Recommendation 3. Improve tracking system for inmate grievances and generate regular reports.
In Progress.

When problems were identified, such as a gap in recording some responses to grievances, staff worked to resolve the issue.

Our comments:

We wonder why there had been a gap in the first place?

Aside from this, we know of a class action lawsuit being prepared to make the courts force the NDOC to respond to grievances and to listen. So clearly not only the tracking system, but also the whole procedure should be reviewed and renewed. And not slowed down, as is now being reported by prisoners.

It is also strange that sometimes a grievance, like an Emergency grievance, is replied to by the person the grievance was written about or against. This creates partiality and the prisoner will almost certainly not be fairly treated then. (NPW)

NDOC should also create regular reports on trends in inmate grievances, both by facility and system-wide.

Our comment:

So will this help the prisoners with their complaints about needs of medical care, or violence being used on a prisoner? Who checks the trends? What action will be taken on these? (NPW)

Recommendation 4. Resolve more inmate grievances at the facility level.

In Progress.

NDOC made strides in some divisions to ensure that certain inmate grievances are resolved at the facility level. Primarily, when the Inspector General’s office receives a grievance alleging staff misconduct, they now ask facility wardens to conduct initial investigations into the claims. This process allows the facts to be verified in a timelier manner and relieves some of the backlog for investigations into these claims.

The full investigation into staff misconduct claims are ultimately handled by the Inspector General’s office, as they are serious in nature, but allowing the facility managers to take on a preliminary investigatory role will help staff resolve grievances more quickly.

Our comment:

This to us sounds like it will become EASIER to “resolve” an issue of staff misconduct by staff themselves. There are several instances in the past, where even the inspector general was sided by the warden and told what to say in his report. For instance has there ever been a formal independent investigation into the violent death of Timothy Redman (who died in November 2009, after being gassed for hours on end)?

If there ever was a proper, INDEPENDENT investigation, where is the report? Where is the press release? (NPW)

Recommendation 5. Consider creating a citizens review board for the inmate grievance process.

Under Consideration.

… Vera can also work with NDOC staff to identify those in the community that may be valuable and productive members of the citizens review board. NDOC will need to identify who in the department is most able to handle the responsibilities of overseeing the board and coordinating its efforts.

Our comment:

This sounds a bit dodgy: how will the public know if those that “represent” them are fair, and will this review board ever side with the victim or accused, how impartial are they? What is just, and how does the review board member investigate? How will the prisoners know? How much will the review board be influenced by the NDOC, the facility, the warden, etc? If NDOC chooses the citizen review board, how impartial will it be? What about human rights abuses? What about disproportionate sentences that the prisons themselves give out to a prisoner, without any outside judge involved, without any advocate/lawyer on behalf of a prisoner?

There are many rules to break in a prison, but we are most concerned by the staff misconduct and violence aimed at prisoners, the lack of medical care, the lack of healthy food, of programs, education, spiritual care. If these human rights are attacked by staff, and a prisoner is being wrongfully accused or not treated, or denied his or her rights, how will this citizen review board have any influence at all?

Incidents are documented where a prisoner was attacked by staff and hurt, and yet he was sent the bill to pay for his injuries caused by staff members. How will a citizens review board deal with these issues? (NPW)

Recommendation 7. Provide pro bono attorneys for inmates in the Inmate
Early Mediation Program.

Under Consideration.

In conversations between Vera and the magistrate judge who oversees the Inmate Early Mediation Program, it is clear that the courts believe it would be beneficial for the inmates to have legal representation at their mediations. However, NDOC administrators have some concerns about adopting this regulation. While the department is in favor of any process that enhances the likelihood of resolving complaints before they reach the courts, the department is wary of settling alleged frivolous claims and setting precedents that may expose the department to additional liability.

To assist in accomplishing this recommendation, Vera will initiate a dialogue with the courts and magistrate judge to discuss the realities of these concerns and how and whether to begin moving forward on this recommendation. NDOC will be involved with these conversations as much as possible. Vera will also work with the courts to identify opportunities to recruit additional pro bono attorneys to sustain the program.

Our comment:

This is precisely why a prisoner should need access to an attorney: the courts have often dismissed cases, because prisoners could not make their case heard without the help of an attorney who is good and capable of voicing his or her client´s need for justice done. (NPW)

Recommendation 8. Keep more investigations at the facility level.

In Progress.

As noted in Vera’s status report, NDOC has worked to move more investigations to the facility level. Specifically, NDOC revised Administrative Regulation 340 to reflect its commitment to ensuring investigations of lower-level offenses are handled at the facility level.

Our comment:

We just got note that the grievance process is slowed down for the prisoners: the time limits to respond to grievances are now 45 days in the informal level, 45 days to the first level and 60 days at the second level. What used to be done in 75 days now can take 5 months to try and resolve. Prisoners think this is set up to slow the process down so that men will not desire to push the issue, because it takes so long to be resolved or just be denied anyway. Is this fair? (NPW, we just had a response from someone in a facility down south about this)

Recommendation 10. Train select staff to run reports in NOTIS.

In Progress.

Our comment:
some records of prisoners are so old and outdated, they have not been touched in years it seems. Are these records really used by staff, to check the level of the prisoners´ custody? Because there ARE mistakes right now in this, that can have influence on the security level a prisoner is kept on. (NPW)

Recommendation 13. Clarify the role of the Board.

Under Consideration.

NDOC administrators believe the fact that the Board follows up on few, if any, issues raised by citizens at public meetings is rather clear to all attendees. However, there does seem to be some frustration among advocates with the way the Board handles their concerns.

To begin implementation of this recommendation, NDOC administrators can work with the Board members to develop language to explicitly state, prior to the public comment portion of the meeting, that it is outside the Board’s capacity to investigate or follow up on any concerns raised by the public. If other recommendations are implemented (see Recommendation 14, below) the Board can refer concerned citizens to other channels to lodge their complaints.

Our comment:
So it is official now: all our (the Public´s) comments are useless. Public has to go to other channels. Maybe to the weblog of Nevada Prison Watch? (NPW)

Recommendation 14. Develop system for following up on concerns received at public meetings.

In Progress.

At the national meeting for the Corrections Support and Accountability Project, NDOC staff met an inmate advocate who has developed a robust, collaborative relationship with the corrections director in another of Vera’s partner jurisdictions.

NDOC staff admired this relationship, and, following that meeting, Director Skolnik
reached out to particular inmate advocates in Nevada in an effort to develop a more
formal and positive relationship between NDOC and the advocate community.

The director has met with several advocates to begin discussing the possibility of formalizing their relationship and develop another channel through which the public and inmates can express their concerns to the department.

These individuals worked with the advocate from Vera’s partner jurisdiction in preparation for a meeting with NDOC. At the first formal meeting, which took place on August 31, 2010, the group identified several areas where the department can begin improvements immediately, including making some changes to the department’s website. The advocates also indicated they will be working to reestablish a CURE chapter in Nevada, hopefully by January 2011.

To complete this recommendation, NDOC should continue its efforts in establishing
relationships with the inmate advocates in Nevada. It also needs to determine the best individual to be the liaison between the department and individuals at public meetings.

Because of the developing relationship between the department and the advocate community, it may be beneficial to request one of the advocates take on this role. The department should arrange for this individual to attend all meetings where public
comment is received and make the public aware of his or her presence and purpose.

NDOC must also work to develop an internal process for handling the concerns and
complaints received by the liaison. Vera will provide assistance as necessary.

Our comment:

Although it is good to hear that NDOC wants to work with “some” inmate advocacy people, we wonder if they will actually listen?

And will Cure be our only tie, our representative to be heard by NDOC? Who else of advocates has heard about this “developing relationship between the department and the advocate community”?

There are many people outside Nevada involved with prisoners in Nevada, family members, friends, concerned people from outside. How do they contact these certain inmate advocates? How do they keep up to date with what is going on?We are free to organize our own advocacy, but will NDOC NOT listen to the others? (as far as we here at NPW know, Cure has yet to find us) (NPW)

Recommendation 15. Create an ombudsman to handle complaints by inmates, staff and the public.

Under Consideration.

The director and his staff have been receptive to creating other avenues through which the department can build bridges with inmates, staff and the public. One example of this is the current effort to develop more solid relationships with inmate advocates in the state (see above, Recommendation 15). However, at this time there are concerns about whether creating an additional state employee position is financially feasible.

If NDOC decides to pursue this recommendation, either now or in the future, the department will need to decide whether this new function should be housed internal to the department or whether it will be housed in another government agency. This may involve consulting with internal staff, external stakeholders and government officials to determine what is best, considering, for example, the degree of independence desired and how that will affect the public’s view of the office’s legitimacy.

If it should be housed externally, the department needs to identify the appropriate state agency to house the ombudsman and will need to gain support from the key staff in that agency. Another consideration for the department and stakeholders is the extent of the ombudsman’s jurisdiction and whether it will focus only on the department or will extend to other state government functions, such as parole and probation. A final issue will be identifying funding for the new ombudsman’s office. NDOC can work with Vera to identify potential grant opportunities or try to find funding from the state. NDOC may also consider the possibility of a volunteer ombudsman, but that should only be a temporary solution while the state is under such stringent budget constraints.

Our comment:

We highly recommend an Ombudsman. But we wonder: does the NDOC really want an Ombudsman, who is independent? Why does not the State of Nevada pay for this person then, instead of NDOC? If they are paid by NDOC, how independent will they be?

The fact that there is a need for this person says a lot about how the rights of prisoners have been abused and trampled under for so many years. If there are less lawsuits in court, maybe the money saved on that will pay for this much needed person. (NPW)

Recommendation 17. Develop a publicly available data dashboard.

Under Consideration.

As mentioned above, NDOC does a commendable job of posting thorough information regarding its population on its website on a consistent basis. These reports provide data on population by facility, projected populations, admissions and releases, and inmate days by facility. While this information is helpful, a great deal of the other data the department collects may be of interest to the public. As discussed in other sections of this report, NDOC is working with Syscon to gain greater control over the functioning of its data system, specifically gaining access to source codes. This will help in the development of the dashboard.

Our comment:

As far as we can see, these data are in not very accessible spreadsheets, and there are practically no data on deaths in prison. I know that one of the public has had to go through many loops to get the figures about the inmate deaths in custody. (NPW)

Recommendation 18. Create a dedicated Public Information Officer position.

Under Consideration.

NDOC administrators have identified a need for someone to handle, full time, the responsibilities of communicating with the public and media.

Our comment:

Well that would help us, the public and the people directly involved with prisoners. Right now there is a total lack of communication to the public when an inmate death or a riot or so occurs. (NPW)

Our conclusions:

It is very surprising that this whole report has had to be written. It must have been (and was, no doubt) a big mess inside NDOC, that the administration has had to be taken by the hand and shown how things have to be. Shame on the NDOC admin to keep covering things up and to keep their interests above any human rights abuses. Money and self-interest is to NDOC clearly more important than rights, than ethical reasons and to apply justice. So we hope there will come an INDEPENDENT Ombudsman.

We hope the grievance system will be much improved, but we firmly believe that grievances have to be resolved more independently and not by the staff against whom the grievance is filed.

We hope there will be no more cover ups by the NDOC, but clarity. We hope there will be no more violence by staff, and in case there is violence done by staff, that the perpetrators will be prosecuted, and the victims NOT be charged and NOT made to pay their own hospital bills.

We hope this Vera report does help, but we remain skeptical until we see positive changes for the prisoner population. (NPW)

Progress report of Vera: what is the NDOC doing?

We received word from our supportive aid about this report. It contains the implementation progress of the Vera Institute of Justice´recommendations to the Nevada Department of Corrections.

We have some comments to make on this report, which we will publish here later.
For now, here is what the state of affairs is:

VERA Institute of Justice
ACTION PLAN FOR THE NEVADA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
The Corrections Support and Accountability Project

URL: http://www.doc.nv.gov/Vera_Action_Plan_for_NDOC_September_2010.pdf
SEPTEMBER 2010

Introduction

The Vera Institute of Justice is excited to begin the technical assistance phase 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. In the first phase of our project, we investigated the current mechanisms of correctional accountability and transparency already in place. This process included visits to correctional facilities, numerous interviews, and research to determine the most pressing oversight needs of each jurisdiction’s correctional system. We memorialized this work in reports for each of our partner jurisdictions, in which we analyzed the systems of existing oversight and made recommendations for improving and/or augmenting these systems.

NDOC has already made progress toward many of these recommendations. This action plan
summarizes the progress that the department has made. Vera confirmed this progress through conducting additional interviews and reviewing documentation. For recommendations that require additional steps to complete, we suggest specific action items that will help the jurisdiction carry them out. These items appear in the main body of the status update, as well as in an appendix at the end of this document, gathering all suggested action items in one place. We believe adopting these recommendations will enable the state to better evaluate the use of resources to support the department, 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 the department, and promote good governance and
professionalism.

This action plan should not be considered in isolation: we encourage a full review of the Status Report, submitted previously to our partners, to better understand the context and reasoning behind each of the recommendations. Nevertheless, our hope is that this action plan sets forth a shared vision for the remaining months of Vera’s work with NDOC, which will conclude at the end of December 2010. At that time, Vera will prepare a “final report” that recounts NDOC’s progress up until that point, verified by interviews, review of documentary evidence, and, where necessary, site visits; the report also will provide guidance on how to complete work that remains to be done. We will work with the department to notify stakeholders of this progress, helping convey NDOC’s accomplishments. We look forward to these next several months, and to continuing the communication that has made this partnership a success thus far.

Status Update

Recommendation 1. Conduct more formal and regular audits of both southern and northern facilities. Almost Complete.

The director has worked with NDOC’s staff to formalize the schedule of the auditing process. Starting July 1, 2010, each facility will be audited at least once per year by the department’s permanent audit staff. These audits will take place in both the northern and southern facilities. The director and staff created a schedule for the 2011 fiscal year (July 2010 through June 2011) that details when each facility will be audited and the estimated costs for conducting the audits. The travel for the audits has been authorized, and the director incorporated all associated costs into the year’s budget.

To complete this recommendation, NDOC should update Administrative Regulation
101 to include the requirement that each facility be audited once a year by NDOC audit staff. This AR is due to be revised in October, 2010.

Recommendation 2. Create formal follow-up process for problems identified during internal audits.
Almost Complete.

In addition to conducting annual audits of each facility, NDOC committed itself to developing a formal follow-up process to address any issues identified during audits. DOC audit staff developed a schedule for follow-up visits to facilities.

These often coincide with initial audits of facilities in the region to cut down on staff time and additional travel costs. At the time of this action plan, audit staff had already conducted several follow-up visits to facilities audited earlier in the year.

To complete this recommendation the NDOC should update Administrative
Regulation 101 to formalize the follow-up process. As mentioned above, AR 101 is due
to be revised in October, 2010.

Recommendation 3. Improve tracking system for inmate grievances and
generate regular reports.

In Progress.

NDOC has made steady improvements in tracking inmate grievances since it adopted NOTIS, the system used by the department to track operational data. When problems were identified, such as a gap in recording some responses to grievances, staff worked to resolve the issue. Recently, NDOC was able to negotiate with Syscon, the developers of NOTIS, to receive access to the source codes for the system. This will allow NDOC information technology staff to make modifications to the system when glitches are identified. By allowing internal staff to make repairs, improvements will happen more quickly in the future.

To complete this recommendation, NDOC should continue its efforts to monitor the
operation of NOTIS and use its increased ability to structure the system to improve on any deficiencies in reporting.

NDOC should also create regular reports on trends in inmate grievances, both by facility and system-wide. Research and IT staff can work with administrators to identify a staff person in the central office who will be responsible for tracking this data and generating reports. This can be done in conjunction with the efforts made to implement Recommendation 11, which concerns internal performance measures and data sharing (see below, page 6-7). Vera will report on the progress of these efforts in its final report for NDOC.

Recommendation 4. Resolve more inmate grievances at the facility level.
In Progress.

NDOC made strides in some divisions to ensure that certain inmate grievances are resolved at the facility level. Primarily, when the Inspector General’s office receives a grievance alleging staff misconduct, they now ask facility wardens to conduct initial investigations into the claims. This process allows the facts to be verified in a timelier manner and relieves some of the backlog for investigations into these claims.

The full investigation into staff misconduct claims are ultimately handled by the Inspector General’s office, as they are serious in nature, but allowing the facility managers to take on a preliminary investigatory role will help staff resolve grievances more quickly.

In addition to these steps, NDOC should continue its efforts to implement this recommendation by training staff on the importance of inmate grievances and the ways
grievances can be used to diffuse issues before they become systemic problems. These
training efforts should encourage staff to resolve grievances before they move up the
chain of command.

Recommendation 5. Consider creating a citizens review board for the inmate grievance process.
Under Consideration.

Vera conducted research into different options for creating a citizens review board for NDOC’s inmate grievance process. As noted in Vera’s Status Report, there are at least two models of this type of oversight body in other jurisdictions in the country – in Missouri and North Carolina. Vera staff interviewed the leaders of these boards and received ample information and data from these sources. In speaking with Director Skolnik, it is clear that Missouri’s model is the most realistic for the department to adopt. The board in Missouri is relatively inexpensive to run and does not require as much departmental staff time.

To complete this recommendation, Vera will continue reviewing the information
from Missouri and working with NDOC administrators to identify what aspects of
Missouri’s model can be adopted by NDOC. As necessary, Vera can arrange
conversations between NDOC and the Missouri Department of Corrections to help
facilitate moving forward on implementation. Vera can also work with NDOC staff to
identify those in the community that may be valuable and productive members of the
citizens review board. NDOC will need to identify who in the department is most able to
handle the responsibilities of overseeing the board and coordinating its efforts.

Recommendation 6. Implement a staff survey.
In Progress.

NDOC has not formalized a staff survey process, yet it has taken steps to begin soliciting more information from staff at all levels. Administrators implemented limited staff surveys on discrete issues, such as soliciting ideas about the way the department can save on costs. The director has also made proactive steps to meet with certain groups of staff to obtain a better understanding of the issues they face and their ideas for improving departmental operations. Since receiving Vera’s report, NDOC has registered for SurveyMonkey.com, a free online survey and questionnaire tool. At this point NDOC administrators are working out issues as to how to administer the survey – one of the biggest barriers is the limited internet access in facilities. Once this has been resolved, the department plans on initially issuing an open-ended survey to identify the issues on which staff would most like to provide input.

To continue moving forward in accomplishing this goal, the department first needs to
resolve the issues identified above regarding which topics to include and issues with
internet access. NDOC may also consider holding focus groups to determine what issues
are most important to staff.

Vera will provide information about developing surveys and examples of staff surveys, as needed. During the initial survey period, NDOC will have to determine which staff members can handle administration of the survey and examine the results. Once the initial survey is complete, NDOC can create a more substantive survey and develop a schedule for periodically administering the survey. After gathering data from all facilities, NDOC will then be able to evaluate and adjust policies as necessary to address issues that surface.

Recommendation 7. Provide pro bono attorneys for inmates in the Inmate
Early Mediation Program.

Under Consideration.

In conversations between Vera and the magistrate judge who oversees the Inmate Early Mediation Program, it is clear that the courts believe it would be beneficial for the inmates to have legal representation at their mediations. However, NDOC administrators have some concerns about adopting this regulation. While the department is in favor of any process that enhances the likelihood of resolving complaints before they reach the courts, the department is wary of settling alleged frivolous claims and setting precedents that may expose the department to additional liability.

To assist in accomplishing this recommendation, Vera will initiate a dialogue with the courts and magistrate judge to discuss the realities of these concerns and how and whether to begin moving forward on this recommendation. NDOC will be involved with these conversations as much as possible. Vera will also work with the courts to identify opportunities to recruit additional pro bono attorneys to sustain the program.

Recommendation 8. Keep more investigations at the facility level.
In Progress.

As noted in Vera’s status report, NDOC has worked to move more investigations to the facility level. Specifically, NDOC revised Administrative Regulation 340 to reflect its commitment to ensuring investigations of lower-level offenses are handled at the facility level. NDOC administrators worked with the unions and top-level staff to develop a system that balances concerns about consistency amongst facilities and the large backlog that plagued the IG’s office for some time. While the Board has not yet approved the updated AR, the Inspector General’s office is returning certain investigations to be completed at individual facilities.

At present, facility staff handle all Level 1 and 2 offense investigations and some Level 3 and 4 investigations. Whether the IG’s office allows the facility to investigate these higher-level offenses depends on a myriad of factors, including the history of the employee, staff members involved, and whether there were witnesses. Level 5 offense investigations are always handled by the IG’s office. The IG’s office ensures that whenever facility staff handle an investigation, they follow guidelines that lay out interviewing protocol and provide specific forms and are overseen by the IG’s office.

To complete this recommendation, the Inspector General’s office should update its
administrative investigation manual to reflect these changes. This manual should be
provided to all facilities to act as the mandatory guidelines that facility staff must follow during any investigation. NDOC administrators should also continue to seek Board approval for AR 340. As these new policies are carried out, the department must monitor investigations and sanctions to ensure that those handled at the facility level are consistent across facilities. If inconsistencies are identified, NDOC should reevaluate the policy, perhaps bringing more investigations back to the IG’s office.

Recommendation 9. Provide additional training on NOTIS for staff at all
levels.

In Progress.

As noted above, the department developed a relationship with the developer of NOTIS and negotiated access to particular elements of the system. During this process, Syscon agreed to provide additional training to NDOC staff, which will include preservice and in-service training modules. Additionally, the department has an extensive manual, available to all internal staff, that provides training on many aspects of NOTIS.

One concern among administrators is that not all internal staff are familiar this manual or do not use it in their daily activities. NDOC should continue working with Syscon to develop a schedule for training on NOTIS, giving preference to those employees who use NOTIS on a regular basis or have job functions that require a more in-depth knowledge of the system. NDOC should also make better use of existing resources, such as the manual mentioned above. To ensure that the manual is as useful as possible, NDOC administrators should develop a way to make more employees aware of it and the information it contains. This can be done through a department-wide memo or at the facility level.

Recommendation 10. Train select staff to run reports in NOTIS.
In Progress.

Along the same lines as the above recommendation, NDOC administrators have recognized a need to allow certain staff the authority and ability to run reports in NOTIS that are relevant to their job functions. The hope among administrators is that once they receive the source codes to the system they will be able to develop the capability for staff to run unique reports.

Once the department has the appropriate source codes, Vera suggests NDOC begin to identify which staff members would benefit from being able to independently run reports in NOTIS. This may require surveying certain staff, mainly those at a managerial level, to determine staff needs and the extent of the training program. Once that is complete, IT staff should work with administrators to develop a schedule of training sessions during which staff that have similar needs can develop skills to independently run reports.

Recommendation 11. Set internal performance measures and formalize
internal data sharing.

In Progress.

The state legislature’s budgetary process requires all agency administrators,
including NDOC’s, to provide performance measure-based information when submitting
annual budgets. This has helped the department begin to identify areas in which it needs to set goals and track progress in achieving those goals. While this is a step forward in achieving implementation of this recommendation, the department can take additional steps to benefit fully from tracking performance measures.

To continue moving forward on this recommendation, NDOC should first identify the
appropriate staff to be involved in this process. This should include higher-level
administrators and departmental research staff, but may also include external parties such as the Board or legislators. These individuals should come together to begin figuring out what measures can be counted and set goals. Once these measures and goals are set, DOC will need to identify internal staff who will be responsible for tracking and reporting the data points.

Organizations like the Association of State Correctional Administrators provide resources about performance-based measures. Vera can work with NDOC to supply the right information and coordinate discussions with other jurisdictions or experts on the topic. Administrators should also consider different models for data sharing, consulting with Vera as necessary, and develop a schedule of internal meetings to formally share the information.

Recommendation 12. Provide more information to Board of State Prison
Commission members and in a timely manner.

Complete.

For the past few Board meetings, NDOC has provided Board members with
more information about the items on the meeting agenda. Specifically, NDOC puts
together a detailed summary of the changes being made to each Administrative
Regulation that is before the Board for approval.

To compile this information, NDOC staff compare the old regulation with the updated draft and include every difference between the two versions. This makes it easier for the Board members and their staff to quickly identify the questions or concerns they may have about any changes. The document is sent to the Board at least 15 days before the meeting. By implementing this process, NDOC has completed the work needed to implement this recommendation.

Recommendation 13. Clarify the role of the Board.
Under Consideration.

NDOC administrators believe the fact that the Board follows up on few, if any, issues raised by citizens at public meetings is rather clear to all attendees. However, there does seem to be some frustration among advocates with the way the Board handles their concerns.

To begin implementation of this recommendation, NDOC administrators can work
with the Board members to develop language to explicitly state, prior to the public
comment portion of the meeting, that it is outside the Board’s capacity to investigate or follow up on any concerns raised by the public. If other recommendations are implemented (see Recommendation 14, below) the Board can refer concerned citizens to other channels to lodge their complaints.

Recommendation 14. Develop system for following up on concerns received at public meetings.
In Progress.

At the national meeting for the Corrections Support and Accountability Project, NDOC staff met an inmate advocate who has developed a robust, collaborative relationship with the corrections director in another of Vera’s partner jurisdictions.

NDOC staff admired this relationship, and, following that meeting, Director Skolnik
reached out to particular inmate advocates in Nevada in an effort to develop a more
formal and positive relationship between NDOC and the advocate community.

The director has met with several advocates to begin discussing the possibility of formalizing their relationship and develop another channel through which the public and inmates can express their concerns to the department.

These individuals worked with the advocate from Vera’s partner jurisdiction in preparation for a meeting with NDOC. At the first formal meeting, which took place on August 31, 2010, the group identified several areas where the department can begin improvements immediately, including making some changes to the department’s website. The advocates also indicated they will be working to reestablish a CURE chapter in Nevada, hopefully by January 2011.

To complete this recommendation, NDOC should continue its efforts in establishing
relationships with the inmate advocates in Nevada. It also needs to determine the best individual to be the liaison between the department and individuals at public meetings.

Because of the developing relationship between the department and the advocate
community, it may be beneficial to request one of the advocates take on this role. The department should arrange for this individual to attend all meetings where public
comment is received and make the public aware of his or her presence and purpose.

NDOC must also work to develop an internal process for handling the concerns and
complaints received by the liaison. Vera will provide assistance as necessary.

Recommendation 15. Create an ombudsman to handle complaints by
inmates, staff and the public.

Under Consideration.

The director and his staff have been receptive to creating other avenues through which the department can build bridges with inmates, staff and the public. One example of this is the current effort to develop more solid relationships with inmate advocates in the state (see above, Recommendation 15). However, at this time there are concerns about whether creating an additional state employee position is financially feasible.

If NDOC decides to pursue this recommendation, either now or in the future, the department will need to decide whether this new function should be housed internal to the department or whether it will be housed in another government agency. This may involve consulting with internal staff, external stakeholders and government officials to determine what is best, considering, for example, the degree of independence desired and how that will affect the public’s view of the office’s legitimacy.

If it should be housed externally, the department needs to identify the appropriate state agency to house the ombudsman and will need to gain support from the key staff in that agency. Another consideration for the department and stakeholders is the extent of the ombudsman’s jurisdiction and whether it will focus only on the department or will extend to other state government functions, such as parole and probation. A final issue will be identifying funding for the new ombudsman’s office. NDOC can work with Vera to identify potential grant opportunities or try to find funding from the state. NDOC may also consider the possibility of a volunteer ombudsman, but that should only be a temporary solution while the state is under such stringent budget constraints.

Recommendation 16. Make certain reports and evaluations available to the public.
Almost Complete.

As noted in Vera’s status report, NDOC has published certain information on its website for some time, including its monthly population reports (dating back to 2006), annual statistical abstracts for each fiscal year (dating back to the 2005 fiscal year) and population projections. The department also recently posted new reports and information on its website, including the report it provided to the Board regarding its plan to close the Nevada State Prison and Vera’s Status Report. It has also posted its legislatively approved budget on the homepage of its website.

NDOC has made marked progress in implementing this recommendation. To fully achieve this goal, NDOC will need to continue the process of publishing these types of resources and reports on its website. To aid in the consistency of doing so, NDOC should nominate a staff person or division to be responsible for continuing this work and maintaining the website.

Recommendation 17. Develop a publicly available data dashboard.
Under Consideration.

As mentioned above, NDOC does a commendable job of posting thorough information regarding its population on its website on a consistent basis. These reports provide data on population by facility, projected populations, admissions and releases, and inmate days by facility. While this information is helpful, a great deal of the other data the department collects may be of interest to the public. As discussed in other sections of this report, NDOC is working with Syscon to gain greater control over the functioning of its data system, specifically gaining access to source codes. This will help in the development of the dashboard.

To accomplish this goal, NDOC should determine not only what the public wants, but
also identify the information that the department believe the citizens of Nevada should know about internal operations. Some data that may be of interest are cost per inmate per day, average lengths of stay, percentage of incarcerated youth, and information on critical incidents.

Once the department develops performance measures for internal purposes, sharing aggregate data about the inmate population and departmental operations will be less burdensome and costly. It may also be beneficial to hold focus groups to determine what is of interest to the public. Once the appropriate data points are selected, NDOC will need to designate a research or IT staff person to ensure the information is posted in an interactive and clear way.

Recommendation 18. Create a dedicated Public Information Officer position.
Under Consideration.

NDOC administrators have identified a need for someone to handle, full time, the responsibilities of communicating with the public and media. While the current staff handling these tasks are knowledgeable, they have other duties that take up the majority of their time.
Once again, the biggest challenge for NDOC in its efforts to hire a PIO is funding. To begin working towards this recommendation, even if in the future, NDOC must develop a job description and begin a hiring process. Alternatively, the department can appoint someone from within to take on these duties on a full time basis.

Conclusion
Nevada Department of Corrections Director Howard Skolnik and his staff have been
committed partners in Vera’s Corrections Support and Accountability Project, and we
commend them for their efforts to improve the accountability and transparency of prison operations.

The steps they have already taken to pursue many of our recommendations are encouraging, and we are enthusiastic about continuing the conversation about implementation. We believe these recommendations will provide numerous benefits— improved public confidence, an opportunity to proactively identify problems, an ability to manage risk, capacity to measure successes and challenges, methods for evaluating the use of resources and making the case for more resources, and promotion of good governance and professionalism.

The Vera Institute of Justice is ready and willing to help our partners explore promising models and work with NDOC, state officials, citizens and community organizations to develop appropriate solutions for Nevada. Vera staff are available to provide guidance and technical assistance to implement these recommendations through December 2010.