Lawmakers defer action on prison furlough plan

The Interim Finance Committee on Thursday deferred action on a plan to allow the Department of Corrections avoid furloughs.

The Board of Examiners has already approved funding to cover added prison salary costs this year.

Part of Director Howard Skolnik's plan to raise the nearly $3.8 million it will cost to avoid furloughs next year is to begin charging inmates rent to use the gyms, canteens and coffee shops at the institutions. Together, those rents would generate just under $1.4 million toward the cost of avoiding furloughs.

Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said she is worried it requires action by the Legislature itself to authorize those rental charges.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, moved to defer the issue until that can be resolved. He and Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, also urged Skolnik to continue working with California, Pennsylvania and a private company, GEO, to lease the Jean Prison, which could generate about $2.5 million a year to cover prison salary costs.

Skolnik told lawmakers on the committee if he can't raise the money through those rents and a possible contract to lease the Jean prison, he will ask for it out of the legislative Contingency Fund.

He said he believes furloughs would drop his correctional staffing too low and endanger both his staff and inmates.

"It's on the record that I'm not going to furlough people," Skolnik said after the meeting.


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