Commentary: Give parolees training, stop the revolving door
Recently the Nevada Appeal ran an article on a proposed prison program to reduce inmate overcrowding. The only way to solve this issue is to stop the revolving door of prisoners returning after their release from prison.
For this, we need to give them the hope and skills necessary to live in the real world. When prisoners are released into society with no money in their pockets and no job skills, they most likely will be back in custody within days.
I have experience with training paroled inmates at a Sacramento welding plant that we owned. Working with the California Department of Corrections, we trained parolees, and in exchange the state provided us with tax credits. The tax credits were cents on the dollar to what it costs California to house the inmates.
The parole officers visited our factory every week to do drug tests and interview the workers. I admit that we did encounter problems with a few of the trainees, but overall the program worked and we benefited from the work that they provided. We paid the workers about $12 an hour, and this allowed them to live without any public assistance.
This program would work in Nevada, and most importantly it could save the state millions of dollars every year if implemented. I would propose that onsite prison facilities be constructed for the initial teaching of prisoners before their parole. Surplus supplies could be used with prison labor to save costs.
Inmates could work doing maintenance and construction for public agencies from the prison facilities and the cost savings could be passed on to the state. This type of training at secure locations would give the parole officers a better understanding of the inmate’s mental condition for release to the outside world.
After they proved that they are fit for parole, then and only then release them to an outside company to participate in their training program.
Prison is meant to be a deterrent to keep people from committing crimes. Yes, it is punishment, but we must understand that if a person has no hope of earning a living, that person might be a lifelong financial burden to the state.
Let them work in prison and pay them a wage that could be used to pay their incarceration costs, pay restitution to their victims and hold and save some of their pay so that when they are released from prison they can live until they find employment.
A program such as this should be a carrot to dangle in front of inmates. Keep the bad apples in prison, but give the salvageable ones a chance while saving the taxpayers money.
• Steven L. David is a Carson City businessman.