Lawyers seek higher wage for Nevada inmates doing state work
LAS VEGAS — A lawsuit claims state inmates who perform manual labor outside correction facilities are paid well below Nevada’s minimum wage of $8 per hour, making their work akin to slave labor.
Attorneys Travis Barrick and Nathan Lawrence claim work by inmates cleaning state roadsides and using heavy equipment like chainsaws to clear vegetation risk injuries for a pay rate as low as $3 per day, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
The attorneys argue that an inmate wage increase would not affect the state’s coffers. Instead, the money could be transferred from the state forestry division to the Department of Corrections.
The lawsuit names Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the forestry division as defendants.
“There is something to be accounted for in the way inmates are treated and viewed,” Lawrence said. “Their incarceration is their punishment. They don’t then get to be treated as slaves because we don’t think they deserve better. That’s what we’re trying to address here.”
A spokeswoman for the governor declined to comment on the litigation. Officials with the conservation department and forestry division could not immediately be reached.
Under state law, wages paid to offenders are subject to administrative supervision, while the state constitution says “each employer shall pay a wage to each employee of not less than the hourly rate” of $8 per hour.
Inmates who work for state agencies outside the prison are “legally and constitutionally entitled to receive a wage not less than the applicable hourly wage,” the lawsuit said.