Prisons settle lawsuit over guards’ rights |

Prisons settle lawsuit over guards’ rights

A settlement agreement in the lawsuit by prison guards over free speech rights will give them a chance to bargain over work conditions for the first time, State of Nevada Employees Association President Scott MacKenzie said Tuesday

The Department of Corrections resolved the lawsuit in federal court by agreeing to a “meet and confer” agreement in which workers will be able to sit down with wardens monthly to discuss workplace issues, conditions and administrative regulations.

But they won’t be discussing personnel issues and attacks on departmental supervisors.

“We want appropriate and productive communication,” said Deputy Director of Corrections Glen Whorton. “There were the bad old days in this department where supervisors acted before they thought – with very little input from line staff.”

As part of what prisons Director Jackie Crawford described as a new culture, they will also publish and standardize departmental procedures governing the investigation and discipline of employees and affirm their rights under state and federal laws.

She said the changes are an important step in not only improving operations of the prison system but keeping quality staff.

But she said still the biggest element there will be raising the pay level of state correctional employees.

“If there’s anything we have to look at it’s what we pay our people,” she said.

She and Whorton said employees will elect representative committees of eight at each prison. Those committees will meet monthly with prison officials to discuss issues and work out solutions.

MacKenzie said that doesn’t include bargaining for higher pay or benefits. That would be collective bargaining which lawmakers have refused to support for state workers.

“This gives NDOC employees a voice in the workplace,” MacKenzie said. “This is something all employees in the state should have the right to do.”