Policy change could save Nevada prisons millions
Feb. 20, 2018
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada's top prison official has changed an old policy that required two officers to accompany prisoners to the doctor.
The new policy requires only one correctional officer per inmate and one officer to provide "relief" as needed — in case an inmate must be moved or taken out of restraints. If there are four inmates at the hospital, for example, five correctional officers would need to be there.
The change is expected to save $3.5 million in six months as overtime costs continue to mount, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported .
A recent audit revealed overtime costs for the Nevada Department of Corrections officers have skyrocketed 34 percent in the last two years. The state paid $15.5 million in overtime costs in fiscal 2017 and $12.5 million the prior year.
Nevada prison officials blamed the increase on transporting prisoners to doctor appointments and to the hospital. The former policy required two correctional officers to accompany each inmate — and to stay with them the entire time, including overnight hospital stays.
"We're not budgeted for watching inmates in the hospital," said James Dzurenda, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections. "So when they stay overnight or get admitted, every single minute is overtime. You have someone who comes in for a DUI case that gets 13 months in prison, and we're sending him to the hospital because he's having a problem with his liver. He's in there for five days. When you multiply that by two officers for each shift, that's a lot of money."
Gene Columbus, a retired corrections officer and president of the Nevada Corrections Association blamed soaring overtime costs on administrators for improperly scheduling officers and mismanaging resources — and, he said, they "should be held accountable."
The audit also found that the department could cut costs by scheduling overtime based on actual hours worked, encouraging officers to volunteer for overtime and reassessing staffing levels.
Information from: Las Vegas Review-Journal, http://www.lvrj.com