Fixing problems with Corrections will be tough task
Welcome to your new job, Howard Skolnik. As head of the Department of Corrections, you already know you’ve got a tough task in front of you, in fact one of the toughest in the entire state. Fortunately, you come with a record of accomplishment heading up the prison industry program, which gave many inmates skills they could use to lead productive lives.
But no one doubts what the first item on your to-do list will be. The inmate population is growing faster than anyone had predicted (the female inmate population rose 18 percent last year alone) and it may cost billions of dollars in the next decade to house them all.
The system is so bad that if something isn’t done soon it could fall under federal control if the state doesn’t spend $22 million on temporary cells.
Chances are you’ll be given all the money you need in the short term, but we hope that building more and more prisons isn’t your long term answer. The cost is too great for this kind of warehousing to continue.
And, anyway, almost all inmates will be released back into our neighborhoods at some point and we hope you have plans to give them skills to lead productive lives. There’s a revolving door on Nevada prisons that needs some work.
Nobody expects you to do it alone.
Ultimately, finding solutions to the problems with the state’s prison system can only be solved by working with legislators, the justice system and law enforcement agencies. It will require identifying non-violent or mentally ill offenders who are best handled in different ways. No one would support leniency for drug dealers, for example, but maybe there are programs that can help small time users turn their lives around and free up jail cells at the same time.
Programs like that cost money, of course, and there will be plenty of people who would rather spend it on more and more cells. We hope you understand the solution is not that simple.