Prison protest draws nearly 100 participants
Nearly 100 state workers – about a third of them prison employees – gathered Friday outside the Nevada State Prison on Fifth Street to protest what they say is heavy-handed management.
Spokesman John Carter, a State of Nevada Employees Association member and correctional officer, said the administration under Warden Bill Donat is violating previous agreements with employees to “meet and confer” on policy changes.
Some former prison officials who were supporters of ex-corrections director Jackie Crawford have complained Director Glen Whorton and Donat are endangering staff by cutting back some inmate programs.
“The main issue here is not inmate programs,” Carter said. “We’re not here for inmate rights. We were glad when the administration took control back from the inmates.”
He and SNEA Director Scott MacKenzie said Donat has gone too far changing such things as sick-leave policies, use of vacation leave and comp-time – and done so without completely informing staff.
Director of Corrections Glen Whorton said that’s not true, that he and his staff have been meeting and discussing the issues with the correctional officers and union officials.
Carter said on sick leave, for example, the administration is flagging employees according to how many days they’ve missed instead of looking at why some one is out.
Whorton said handling of sick leave is his decision, not Donat’s.
“It’s not Mr. Donat’s prerogative. If I’m concerned about sick leave and there’s a budget problem, that direction comes from me, not Mr. Donat,” Whorton said.
MacKenzie said the employees association wants to sit down with prison officials and work out those differences. He said they filed a lawsuit four years ago, which resulted in an agreement to keep each other informed of policy issues, but that the agreement has broken down in the eyes of many correctional officers at the Nevada State Prison.
Carter said the dissent is widespread within the prison, not just among guards, but among correctional sergeants and above as well.
Whorton said he and his administrators have been meeting keeping the union and employees informed.
“It’s not true we haven’t been meeting. Some officers seem to think there’s no communication going on if they don’t get their way,” he said.
He said, in fact, he was on his way to a meeting with the employees association Friday afternoon.
Ed Flagg, of the Nevada Corrections Association, the other primary union representing prison employees stood by Whorton.
“We’ve not had some of these problems,” Flagg said. “We’ve met with the director, the assistant director and Bill Donat and our issues have been addressed.”
Flagg said some of the protesters are expecting too much too quick.
“Not everything can be taken care of overnight. (Donat) took over a quagmire at NSP.”
Whorton and Flagg said another meeting is scheduled May 5 to discuss the situation.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.