After numerous complaints by inmate family members, the Board of Prison Commissioners on Thursday suspended a new regulation that has been confiscating 80 percent of the money inmates have in their prison accounts.
The money was being taken to pay restitution to victims of crimes committed by those inmates as mandated by the voter-approved Marsy’s law. But family members say the money inmates earn through work is a pittance, far below the minimum wage, and the prisoners can’t afford even basic essentials such as hygiene products.
Family members said if the new rule stands, they would have to send their loved ones five times as much cash which most say they can’t afford.
Members of the board questioned how the prison system came up with 80 percent — a percentage they said seems incredibly high. After being told the new rule was put in place as a temporary regulation by Director of Corrections Charles Daniels, Gov. Steve Sisolak said he believes the board will need a much more detailed explanation before ratifying the new rule. Prison officials were unable to even tell the board how much money has been taken from inmate accounts so far.
Sisolak said he would support suspending that rule until the board gets some answers.
“If we don’t do something, they’re going to continue taking the 80 percent,” he said.
The other two members, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, agreed.
“The question we’re all having here is why 80 percent,” said Ford.
At both the prisons board and the Interim Finance Committee last week, numerous family members complained they and the inmates they represent were given absolutely no warning about the new policy, some not finding out until after their bank accounts were hit. They argued that 80 percent is outrageous.
Marsy’s Law as approved by Nevada voters gives victims of crime rights including making restitution a top priority.
The new policy was suspended immediately and Daniels and Cegavske directed to sort things out and get some answers for the board.