City seeks long-term inmate labor

Carson City may contract with the Nevada Division of Forestry for a regular inmate crew to work around the community, if a proposal is approved at Thursday's meeting of city supervisors.

Creating this type of arrangement would be unique to a community in Nevada, said Fire Chief Stacey Giomi.

"Those inmate crews are a valuable resource," he said.

The 12 workers will work around the city to clear ditches and other areas. And, during an emergency, the inmate crews will help with any physical tasks, Giomi said.

A significant portion of their time will be spent on upkeep around the 452 acres of the city's open space areas, as well as 5,000 additional acres owned by the utility department.

Much of the inmates' work will be in interface areas, where homes are adjacent to grassy, undeveloped open space lands, and for maintenance and cleaning of drainage areas, said Juan Guzman, open space manager.

And when there is time, the crew will work at the landfill, said Tom Hoffert, the city's public works operations manager.

Up to $70,000 annually will come from the city's landfill fund because of the removal of highly combustible growth, and the removal of loose trash at the landfill to keep it from blowing away and onto other nearby properties, Hoffert said.

Cost for the inmate crew will be offset by the reduction of contractors hired for these purposes.

There are roughly 1,200 inmates working for the NDF. During the height of the New Year's flooding in Northern Nevada, 500 of them assisted city, county and state employees responding to the crisis.

Those inmates who have sexual convictions, recent episodes of violence or a history of arson are not eligible. And the prisoners must meet stringent physical requirements and be within 18 months of their parole or release.

"They are screened very carefully, and monitored very carefully," said Pete Anderson, the NDF's urban forester.

Inmates receive $1 per hour, a portion of which goes to the victims' restitution fund and toward inmates' room and board.

There are, for example, head counts conducted every 20 minutes. And there are a significant number of inmates - specifically trusties - already working around Carson City, he also said.

Crew members are expected to begin work in Carson City in September or October if the Carson City Board of Supervisors approves the proposal.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber or 882-2111, ext. 215.


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