Nevada’s prison overtime down 69 percent in last quarter | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada’s prison overtime down 69 percent in last quarter

With prison wardens taking a much more active role in managing overtime, the budget shortfall in Nevada is now down to $3.1 million.

That's far less than the $22 million total corrections officials were reporting just a few months ago.

Gov. Brian Sandoval complimented Corrections Director James Dzurenda and his staff for getting the OT under control. He said this latest quarter, prison overtime was 69 percent lower than the $4 million reported in the previous quarter.

Dzurenda said it's being done without compromising safety at the various institutions but he conceded the changes in policy aren't popular.

“A lot of the staff were upset because they were counting on that overtime.”

— James DzurendaCorrections director

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"A lot of the staff were upset because they were counting on that overtime," he said.

He said wardens in each institution are now managing overtime, determining whether it's necessary or not. In some cases, he said, such as outside hospital visits, there's no choice. But he said in other cases, programs such as basketball and art classes can be halted for a day or so to free up a correctional officer to handle hospital trips and fill vacant posts.

He said wardens make those decisions based on "the mood of the facility."

Those programs, he said, "are good for inmate activities" so they try not to cancel them.

Dzurenda said another change to reduce overtime is that, no longer does corrections send two correctional officers with every inmate taken to an outside hospital. He said if it's just one inmate, two officers go but with up to four inmates hospitalized, there would only be 5 COs sent instead of eight for each shift. He said that's a significant savings since there are three shifts in a 24-hour day.

He said that's the system local law enforcement has been using and it's proven to be safe.

The issue of overtime came up because the Board of Examiners on Tuesday voted to approve a request to cover the $3,174,606 shortfall using Contingency Fund money. That request will go before the Legislative Interim Finance Committee today and will undoubtedly draw questions about the new policies from lawmakers.

The issue came to a head in January when auditors told the governor corrections was $15 million in the red because of skyrocketing overtime costs and on track to hit $22 million.

Sandoval ordered his senior adviser Andrew Clinger to work with prison administration to get the costs under control, saying that overrun would deplete the state's legislative contingency fund in just the first year of the biennium.