Inmates assist work crews |

Inmates assist work crews

Terri Harber
Appeal Staff Writer
Inmates from the Carlin, Ely and Humboldt Conservation Camps fill sandbags at the Carson City Public Works Department on Wednesday for the Nevada Division of Forestry. The Inmates have filled an estimated 50,000 sandbags since Friday. Chad Lundquist/ Nevada Appeal

Before, during and after the torrential rain in the region during the weekend, city work crews have been assisted by state prison inmates.

The inmates, supervised by the Nevada Division of Forestry, have been filling sandbags at the Corporate Yard and shoveling away mud in areas across the city.

The first crew came from Stewart Conservation Camp and began working in the city on Friday to help prepare for the onslaught. Up to 100 inmates – four crews – from across the state were working here at various times this week.

Storm-related preparation and cleanup “requires a lot of man hours,” said Tom Hoffert, public works operations manager. And some of the tasks can’t be completed using heavy equipment because it’s impossible to get into some of the tight spaces.

Inmate labor has allowed city workers to focus more on clearing ditches and culverts and fixing roads, among other tasks, Hoffert said.

And they save the city a lot of money, he said.

The city was still calculating costs Wednesday, so a specific amount saved wasn’t available.

“Carson has learned over the years that these workers are invaluable,” said Kelli Baratti, a spokesperson for the Forestry Division. They have helped the city during an array of incidents, including the floods of 1997 and the Waterfall fire and its subsequent hillside rehabilitation.

There were 500 inmates assisting city, county and state work crews laboring across the region at the height of the weather crisis, Baratti said. Statewide, there are 1,200 inmates who work for forestry division.

Inmates not allowed to work for the division are those who have sexual convictions, recent episodes of violence or a history of arson.

Low-risk prisoners must meet “very stringent” physical requirements and be within 18 months of their parole or release, she said.

The inmates receive $1 per hour, portions of which goes to the victims’ restitution fund and toward their room and board. And for each day of incident work they get a half-day off of their sentence.

“The work gets the inmates out of the environment they’re in,” Baratti said. “It’s considered a privilege to come work for the NDF.”

— Contact reporter Terri Harber at 882-2111, ext 215 or