Gov says Nevada pays more to feed wild horses than inmates
CARSON CITY, Nev. — A legislative move to cut the food budget for Nevada prisons was criticized Thursday by Gov. Kenny Guinn — who said the state pays more to feed a wild horse than it does to feed a prisoner.
Guinn, targeting a budget cut sought by Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, said the prison system’s food budget assumes a per-inmate cost of $2.29 a day — and the budgeted sum for feeding wild horses under state control is $2.50 per horse.
“They don’t run the prison,” Guinn said of Assembly Ways and Means Committee members who on Wednesday joined Perkins in opposing an increase in prison food funding.
“I trust the people who are (working) there,” the governor said, adding that prison officials thought the food funds important enough for security purposes that they were willing to give up a request for 14 new staffers in exchange.
“I think they’ll come around … I do believe they’ll reconsider,” Guinn said when asked about the Ways and Means action, adding that he expected a compromise would be reached.
Perkins, D-Henderson, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, both were critical of a deputy prisons director’s comment about a “retaliatory attitude” of legislative staffers in dealing with the inmate food budget for the next two years.
After criticizing Glen Whorton, Perkins then moved to cut a 5 percent inflation increase for prison food out of the budget.
The prison system spends about $17 million a year on food. Officials said the cut would take about $750,000 out of the food budget.
Whorton wasn’t alone in raising concerns about security and safety when convicts are upset about their food.
Deputy Prisons Director Darrel Rexwinkel noted the Nevada prison system’s average cost of $2.29 a day for feeding inmates compares with an average of $4.41 for most other Western states.
Rexwinkel also said the prison cost for food is substantially less than what the Division of Child and Family Services pays for food service in its juvenile detention facilities, about $5.25 a day per youth.
Rexwinkel added that the cost of prison food is rising — more than 2 percent in the first two months of this year.