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February 20, 2014 - Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place
by Bob Sloan
Following a full year of investigating complaints and revising Nevada’s prison industry program statute(s), a new Administrative Rule (AR 854) regulating the operation of that state’s prison industry operation has been submitted to the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) by NDOC Director, Greg Cox. In December this regulation was adopted and became effective.
In October the NDOC submitted a long list of new or amended AR’s to the BPC for approval and implementation. At that time Cox withheld the proposed AR 854 addressing the operation of the agency’s prison industry operations. Cox held back on this single AR by advising the Board he wanted to work with former Senator Richard Bryan on the language of that particular regulation.
On December 17th Director Cox submitted the final negotiated regulation to BPC members, Governor Sandoval, AG Masto and Secretary of State, Ross Miller for consideration. Following approval by the Board, the new prison industry regulations are now in effect.
Critics and opponents of the prison industry program have now adopted a position of “monitoring” the state’s prison industry program. They’re doing so in an effort of ensuring there are no further infringements upon Nevada’s workers and businesses that compete against prison industries. Last year it was discovered that the NDOC regulations were not being fully enforced and state statutes controlling prison industry operations were insufficient to protect both Nevada's private sector workers and competing non-prison partnered businesses.
All of this came about after lawmakers, the media and general public learned that the prison industry program was more or less operating without any real oversight. This allowed the NDOC to “partner” with a local Las Vegas business - Alpine Steel, LLC - in a manner that provided that business with an unfair advantage over competitors and reduced the number of available private sector jobs. Not only did this single business enjoy prison labor far below standard wage rates, but it also received low cost taxpayer subsidized utility costs and lease terms for state owned property that was far below the state averages. Additionally the NDOC failed to enforce most of the terms of the contract it had with Alpine, allowing the company to default on paying the salaries of NDOC staffers, prison workers and monthly lease payments or utility costs and making no effort to cure the defaults.
When this partnership was finally terminated by Governor Sandoval and the smoke cleared, the state was left with an owed debt of nearly half a million dollars. Alpine's owner entered into a negotiated agreement to repay the state but almost immediately defaulted, leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid leases, staff salaries, utility costs and owed taxes. This failed partnership resulted in the revamping of the state’s statutes controlling Nevada's existing prison industries and all proposed new industries.
During the lengthy legislative activities related to the failed Alpine partnership, other issues were discovered that prison labor activists are continuing to pursue at both state and federal levels. These include the hourly wages paid to inmate workers in the program, deductions taken from prisoner paychecks and working conditions.
Nevada is a participant in a federally run program (Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program or PIECP) that encourages prison industry/private business partnerships such as the one involving Alpine. However in order to establish and operate under such partnerships both the state and the private business must agree to abide by stringent mandatory conditions required by the federal government. Two of the imposed mandatory requirements are that inmates be paid prevailing wages and that the state can only take approved deductions from those wages. In the case of Alpine, the contract with the state required that inmate workers receive "prevailing wages" (section 8.6) or the same wage paid to private sector workers performing the same duties on the outside. Instead, the NDOC and Alpine set the inmate wage rate at or below the state minimum wage scale, exploiting the labor of inmate workers and further enriching Alpine.
Subsequently it now appears Nevada is underpaying inmates working in the federal program and taking an unapproved deduction of 5% to fund new prison industry operations. In effect Nevada’s inmate workforce are being made to fund operating expenses of the prison industry out of their already meager wages.
Prison labor advocates are attempting to work with the NDOC, Nevada authorities and the responsible federal agency to cure any purported violations regarding the PIECP program to ensure Nevada is in full compliance with current state and federal provisions regarding the use of inmate labor.
Currently the Deputy Director of the NDOC’s Prison Industry, Brian Connett has indicated there are no proposed new industries being considered by the agency. However prior to the furor caused by the Alpine situation, Connett was advocating for a new industry in Nevada operated by a California company. The operation would have used inmate labor at minimum wages to sort through collected trash and remove recyclables. The collection of trash and refuse across the state would have been accomplished by the same California company. This project was moving forward over objections voiced by the labor representative of the Senate's Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs, Mr. Mike Magnani. This recycling "industry" was tabled once the Legislature began looking into the prison industry operations.
Businesses and a second labor representative, Rob Conway now sitting upon the legislative Interim Finance Committee will continue to monitor activities of the prison industry to eliminate the possibility of another situation arising that could jeopardize business owners or private workers. Additionally the amended statute requires the Board of Prison Commissioners to review and approve any new industries or expansion of existing ones. Hopefully vigilance by the labor representatives will keep the prison industries and expanded partnerships in check and allow more of Nevada's unemployed to find employment due to the reduction in new prison labor programs that eliminated positions in the past.
Only time will tell if the new regulations prevent another Alpine-styled incident from reoccurring.
September 16, 2013 - A federal judge has found Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in contempt of court for failing to abide by the terms of an agreement agreed to by CCA in a case filed by inmates housed at a CCA facility in Idaho.
The case involves the falsification of staffing records to indicate critical staffing positions were filled and staff present - when in fact these security positions were vacant.
This p;aced the safety of other present staff members, inmates ahd visitors in jeopardy while allowing CCA to bill the IDOC for staff hours not actually worked.
July 1, 2013 - Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval signed new prison industry legislation that became effective today. As reported in our "breaking news" section, Nevada authorities were forced to amend statutes related to prison industry operations after discovering one or more private companies partnered with the state's prison industry had not been paying for leases, inmate or staff wages, utility costs or worker comp premiums. This left taxpayers on the hook for $438,000+ owed to the state.
Additionally - and more importantly - workers in that state had been denied employment opportunities due to inmates being used as a work force for private companies. Competing private sector businesses protested that they were being unfairly competed against when bidding on projects where other companies using prisoner labor, submitted lower bids because of the cheap labor projections for those projects.
The new legislation changes the law and makes it mandatory that any company wishing to partner with the state using prison industry facilities and inmate labor, must post a bond to protect wokres and taxpayers from similar acts of default. The law also adds a ninth member of the Interim Finance Committee's Committee on Industrial Programs. This will be a second representative of organized labor. This addition will hopefully reduce the liklihood that new prison industries will displace private sector workers.
July 2012 - Michigan and several other states working to implement PIECP legislation to allow the use of inmate labor and partnerships with private companies to increase cheap prison labor positions while eliminating private/public sector jobs to American workers.
UNICOR (Federal prison industries - FPI) taking contracts from companies such as American Apparel in Alabama and MS. resulting in the dicplacement of hundreds of American workers. These contracts keep Americans at work and able to support their families. When taken over by FPI UNICOR makes huge profits off the cheap labor of prisoners, while private sector workers are put on unemployment roles.
April 5, 2012 - Several corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) announced this week that they have severed their ties with the organization. This comes in the wake of the controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, and the possible use of that state's "Kill At Will" or "Stand Your Ground" law as a defense by the purported gunman, George Zimmerman.
As many are aware, I have been tracking, researching and writing about ALEC for several years now after discovering their involvement in writing most of the laws used to incarcerate more than 2 million Americans, and keep them incarcerated for ever longer periods of time. In connection with these harsh criminal justice laws ALEC also is responsible for state laws allowing the transfer of state prisoners to private prison facilities and for their Prison Industries Act which allows private corporations access to cheap inmate labor.
This development is a positive sign that this cabal comprised of corporate and legislative members with a conservative agenda to profit off of prisoners - and the middle class - is starting to implode as major funders quit ALEC. Hopefully more will follow suit and leave ALEC dependent upon funding from Koch Industries and owners Charles and David Koch. This will allow voters to see the faces of those really driving these harsh and undemocratic criminal justice policies.
March 1, 2012 - Following the PHEWA Conference the Presbyterian church sent out letters to all Governors in opposition to the letter sent to them by CCA offering to buy state prison facilities. Profiting off of prisoners provides ample incentive to continue to lock up more and more Americans to increase profits and dividends for investors in companies such as CCA. PHEWA was joined in this public protest of private prisons by the ACLU, United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ to mention just four of the dozen or so organizations and churches signing on.
February 20, 2012 - Attended a conference of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) Criminal Justice Network in Rocky Point, New York from 2/16 through 2/19. Presented on prison industries, prison privatization and the involvement of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their involvement in crafting and disseminating the laws used to imprison 2.3 million and enrich the corporations through privatization of prisons and industries. Some of the attendees at the conference had just returned from Florida where they successfully fought off the pursuit of privatizing 1/3 of that state's entire prison system (29 facilities).
September 13, 2011 - Sidney Hillman Foundation announced today http://bit.ly/rq5mHw that those of us who participated in the "ALEC Exposed" joint project were selected to receive the September Sidney Award for conscientious investigative Journalism. An article co-authored by myself and Mike Elk: " was part of that award winning Exposehttp://www.thenation.com/article/162478/hidden-history-alec-and-prison-labor.
September 4, 2011 - Appeared on Reverend Jesse Jackson's "Keep Hope Alive" radio progrma today. I was on the panel that included Congressman Conyers from Michigan and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. along with an Economist as we discussed prison labor, prison industries and the impact upon American's jobs in the private sector. Two hour program that looked at these issues from all angles including the laws written over the past three decades by corporations that have led to the 2.4 million incarcerated today and their exploitation by corporations involved in the PIECP program.
I was honored to be invited to attend the Congressional Black Caucus meeting in DC later this month to be on a panel discussing jobs and unemployment. I gladly accepted the generous offer and look forward to discussing these prison and labor issues in a national forum attended by those looking for real and effective means of increasing jobs and stopping the use of inmates to take jobs from the private sector.
July 15, 2011 - ALEC Exposed! - In the long battle to expose the involvement of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) today marks a huge milestone. In April an Activist group put together by myself and fellow members of Daily Kos held a Protest in Cincinnati against ALEC. Our goal was to expose them and their writing of pro-corporate legislation that they disseminate to each state through their legislative members.
The Protest was not just a good start to accomplishing this exposure, it turns out to be the beginning of the end for ALEC. Their funding from and memberships held by the likes of Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), Geo Group, Koch Industries, AT&T, PhRma, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola became public and one of ALEC's knowledgeable and long time insiders came forward as a Whistleblower, turning over to us the entire ALEC secret "Model Legislation" library and other important documents!
On July 15th much of the documents we'd received were made public by Center for Media and Democracy: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/07/10883/about-alec-exposed and The Nation went public with the first of several articles detailing the impact upon many important issues: healthcare, privatization of schools, education programs, prisons, prison industries, women's rights, abortion, union busting, collective bargaining and a myriad assortment of other issues in the news today: http://www.thenation.com/article/161969/rigging-elections.
Please visit my Daily Kos Blog at: http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Bob%20Sloan/ for more indepth coverage of this historic battle for democracy and reversing the trend of incarceration, prison privatization and prison industries.
DOJ Partnership Video on PIE Program
SB 1070 written, proposed and enacted by those partnered with and receiving "contributions" from private prison operators, CCA and Geo Group. Both of these private for-profit corporations assisted the writing an wording of SB 1070 prior to the law being submitted to both houses by Arizona Lawmakers. This was all accomplished by members belonging to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative PAC that has a membership that includes Senator Pearce (R) AZ., CCA and Geo Group. I wrote about this possibility in September of 2009, warning that CCA's CEO had made statements back then as to their pursuit of immigration detention as a way of increasing profits and filling their beds that had begun to empty as states reduced incarceration to slow the expenditures of taxpayer funding to pay for private prisons.
At some point the American worker must awaken and realize the threats to their jobs are not from Corporations moving operations "offshore" to India, Mexico or other countries. No, the threat to their jobs and income are right here at home and come from Corporations using inmate labor to replace private jobs. They get labor on the cheap, free leasing of facilities and tax breaks from participating states and the federal government for hiring inmates - while they are still in prison! Oh sure, they make statements about reducing "idleness in prison" and "teaching work skills to inmates to make them more employable upon release" as justification for moving their operations behind prison fences and walls and eliminating private sector jobs by that move. But those claims are merely standard rhetoric that has the same impact and results in the same outcome upon the public as false claims made by prison and Legislative officials that unless more tax dollars are used to fund the building of more prisons, hardened rapists, murders and sexual predators will have to be released from prison back into their communities.
It isn't just prison labor that is hurting our private sector jobs - it is the entire private prison industrial complex that includes housing, medical treatment, food, banking and transportation. Prison labor is provided at private prisons, state prisons and within local cities and towns surrounding those prisons. Inmates have replaced janitors, maintenance, landscaping and other private sector positions once held by non-inmate workers. States, cities and municipalities using inmates in place of you and I cite the economy as a reason for such action. Citizens of those communities should be protesting the loss of their jobs to prisoners. First - those incarcerated stole from or in some other way caused harm to those citizens. Now they are being used by those assigned to keep them from doing more harm to you, to take your jobs and put you on enemployment. In effect, the government is using them to steal your jobs now.
March 17, 2010 - Uploaded a new file to the PIECP Site File page - "PIE Article March 2010 Cover Story.doc"" This article was written by Bob Sloan and published in PLN's March 2010 issue. The article goes into great detail about PIECP, participants in the program, abuses within the program and identifies what needs to happen to bring this important program into compliance with Federal laws authorizing PIECP. In the PLN issue there is a companion article on prisoner labor being used to replace private sector workers in city, county and state municipalities and departments to save money for those agencies.
March 12, 2010 - Corrections Concepts, Inc. is still at it working on Wakita, Ok. to assist them in urging the OK. DOC and state authorities to authorize the building of the nation's first "all Christian" prison. As indicated below, we do not sponsor this project. We're not against Christianity or the Christian faith---we are against the comingling of faith based religious concepts with the operations of state prison facilities.
Since Corrections Concepts and it's founder, Bill Robinson contacted Texas Governor George W. Bush in 1995 with the concept of Christian prisons a lot of detractors spoke up against the suggestion. Under Governor Bush the separation of Church and State began to narrow considerably. Because of Bush's faith based offices in government, that gap has become almost non-existent.
Prisons are a social necessity brought about by the breaking of social or community laws by members of that society or community. Prisons were necessary to house those offenders that required a separation from the community for rehabilitation or until they could safely be reintroduced back into their communities. When a society has rules and laws, they have to have a means of enforcement and a way to discipline or punish offenders. The society or community bore the expense and responsibility for building and maintaing a facility to house these offenders. It was a cost borne by that community or society - as I said out of necessity.
That was the concept until two or so decades ago when private investors decided to exploit prisons. They discovered that prisons were here to stay and saw a way of making huge sums of money from operating those prisons if they could get the states to allow privatization. Enter Whackenhut (now Geo Group), Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Cornell Corrections and others in the 1980's. George Bush and Bill Robinson joined the privatization bandwagon in 1995. Their idea was to merge religion, prisons and prison industry into one cohesive unit where inmates would be worked in a prison industry, working for minimum wage to produce products for the corporation that could be sold competitively on the open markets to consumers. By using cheaper labor behind prison fences they believed they could realize greater profits from their products. At the same time religious believers could "minister" Christian beliefs and concepts to these wayward felons to turn them into law abiding citizens upon release. One hope was that the spread of Christianity could be helped along by converting such offenders while in prison.
I won't go into the arguments about how the inmates will be chosen or which religious faiths will be accepted at Mr. Robinson's prison...or what faith the Christian "Counselor's" and "staff" will be associated with. The simple fact that it is "Christian" based...not Muslim, Jewish, Lutheran, Buddhist, etc., seem to indicate a theme. Mr. Robinson will no doubt point out that Christian in his mind encompasses all faiths and all will be welcome in his prison. Of course they will, Mr. Robinson...they'll all make money for your prison, whether they're Christian or not.
Some of our research found that Corrections Concepts Inc. was founded by Mr. Robinson with the assistance of Dr. James T. Draper, former President of the Southern Baptist Lifeway Christian Ministries. Dr. Draper is a devout Evangelical Conservative. In addition others of notable mention included: Dan Quayle, former VP, Charles Colson, Colby May, Ken Armbrister (former Tx. Senator) and Dick Armey (Former U.S. Congressman). There are other supporters and contributors of CCI and the Heritage House Reintegration facility and some of those same individuals also invested in and supported the likes of U.S. Technologies, Inc.m a Delaware Corporation doing business in Lockhart, Texas during the Bush years. The company utilized inmate labor to manufacture parts and products for private sector manufacturers and buyers. They placed huge factories inside prisons for the specific purposes of using inmate labor to realize a huge profit margin for the investors. Check out U.S. Technologies, Inc. and their wholly owned subsidiary, UST that did business for years in Texas with Whackenhut, CCA and others under Governor's Bush. In the early 2000's U.S. Technologies was dissolved due to the corruption and graft of it's Chairman who bilked investers out of more than $13 million dollars.
Why would such notable people provide financial and personal support of companies like CCI and UST? The money, of course. Investors stood to make millions through UST and it failed due to the greed of one individual. Now we have CCI - who has pushed for this Christian prison program for more than 15 years now - trying in vain to get the governments of at least one state to allow them to build and operate their facility. Texas declined to authorize the building of this prison concept and so has other states for more than a decade now. Every municipality approached by Mr. Robinson has declined his program after reviewing his prospectus and researching the issues. Now it's up to Wakita, Ok. and the Oklahoma Legislative bodies to do the same and preserve a distinct line between church and state. Oklahoma needs to keep their prisons state run and operated...a responsibility that comes with incarceration.
November 4, 2009 - Corrections Concepts, Inc., a Dallas based non-profit is working to get Wakita, Oklahoma to sponsor the building of a new private prison. The facility would be the first all Christian prison in the U.S. Volunteering inmates would be supervised by Christian guards, and staffers. In addition, the inmates would work at the facility in a prison industry under the federal PIECP program. However, Corrections Concepts intends to not abide by the PIECP mandatory requirements of paying inmate workers in the program prevailing wages - instead choosing to pay them federal minimum wages - for their labor.
This avoidance of paying prevailing wages was first presented by Corrections Concepts founder, Bill Robinson to Texas Governor Bush in 1995 when Bush's support was sought. Bush so liked the idea of combining faith-based community initiatives with prison industries for prison inmates, he authored Resolutions there in Texas making it easier for such initiative programs to get state tax dollars for their operations. Once in the White House, Bush brought the concept with him, establishing White House Offices of Faith-Based Community Initiative satellite offices in every Federal Department and Agency including the Department of Justice that oversees the PIECP program. Bush did this by Executive Orders within days of taking office in 2000.
PIECP-Violations opposes the building of such a "Christian" prison in Wakita, Oklahoma - not on religious grounds, rather due to the stated intention of not abiding by the federal PIECP requirements regarding the planned prison industries. Too many prison industries and their private sector partners are already taking advantage of this important program, by not paying prevailing wages to the inmate workers. This allows for more corporate and prison industry profits at the expense of the work force. In addition it provides these violators with an unfair advantage over private sector companies who manufacture the same or similar products on the open markets. The PIE Program allows prison industries to sell and distribute prisoner made goods upon the same markets as private sector manufacturers and to openly compete for private sector market shares for those products. The prison industries are already disadvantaging the private sector competitors by giving their "partners" leases of huge prison facilities for $1.00 a year, no health insurance, no workers unemployment premiums, no paid vacations or other perks the private sector competing companies must provide to their employees. This results in the loss of private sector jobs to those citizens in desperate need of keeping their jobs, by transferring those jobs behind prison fences and walls and giving them to inmates.
Currently - as stated elsewhere on this site - there is a serious lack of actual, effective oversight of PIECP operations nationwide. The Bureau of Justice Assistance has outsourced this oversight to a private non-profit "Association" - the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA). There can be no real oversight or compliance with the PIE Program's rules and laws while an Association made up of the prison administrators, managers and vendors involved in the program oversee themselves. The NCIA is made up of just that - vendors to, administrators, managers and employees of the participating PIECP industries operated in each state.
The residents and citizens of Wakita, Oklahoma should review the PIECP Guidelines and ask pointed and specific questions of Corrections Concepts, Inc. about the proposed Prison Industry they plan on opening at the prison complex. These residents should know what the program is about and whether or not the prison industry will result in the loss of private sector jobs or unfairly compete with local Oklahoma Private Sector manufacturers of similar products. This must be done to protect Oklahoma jobs from disappearing behind the prison fences.
October 29, 2009 - Jury in the Enoch Hall murder trial have voted 12-0 to impose the death penalty for the first degree murder of FDOC Officer, Donna Fitzgerald. Sentencing is set for December 7, 2009.
September 8, 2009 - Readers need to keep an eye on prison privatization and immigration, in Southwestern states. CCA and Geo Group are both beginning to indicate that due to the number of declining state prison inmates throughout their private owned prisons, they are turning attention to "illegal immigration" as a way to fill their beds and keep their profits rolling in. I can't tell you which state is going to become the battleground of this fight, but ALEC is writing more of their Model Legislation on this issue and both CCA and Geo are membes of ALEC, both involved in detention housing and influential in states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and all of those states have Governors sympathetic to the Conservative agenda - which is behind most legislation to increase incarceration and privatization efforts in the U.S.
"Inmates Should Be Rehabilitated...Not Recycled..."
I'm Bob Sloan and I live and work in Indianapolis, Indiana. I'm an ex offender who was once imprisoned in Florida. I earned an AA degree in drafting and architecture before going to work in the Prison Industries operated by PRIDE of Florida. While with PRIDE I was fortunate enough to gain several Certificates in Management, Drafting, CADD operations, Design and Layout, etc.
My wife Jean, is a part of the ongoing prison reform and PIECP activism and advocacy we both represent. She attended demonstrations at the State Capital in Tallahassee in 2003 as a representative and member of the Florida LOLITS (Lil' Ol Ladies In Tennis Shoes) Advocacy Group. On our behalf Jean attended the first Public Hearing by the "Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons" held in Tampa, Florida on August 19-20, 2006. We both attended the Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing on PRIDE and the FDOC in January 2008
I have been back to Florida on several Occasions to attend and give presentations at PRIDE Board Meetings. My attendance is due to an ongoing concern about prison labor issues and PIECP program violations, in particular. I presented issues and documentation to the Board about PIECP violations by their industries and encouraged them to bring all industries into compliance with the 1999 PIECP Guidelines. To date we have made headway but there's still much work to be done.
Under the tenure of the previous Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), James McDonough, I worked closely with he and his office in an attempt to insist upon PRIDE returning to their Mission Statement of Inmate training and job placement upon release. In addition we worked to implement new industry training programs and I authored a re-entry/Industry program which was presented to McDonough and then Governor, Jeb Bush (with the support of Indiana Senator, Richard Lugar, the same program was recently sent to the Federal Prison Authority for consideration at the national level).
Presently we've had a few email conversations with the new FDOC Secretary, Walter McNeil about PRIDE issues (the Secretary holds a permanent seat upon the PRIDE Board of Directors). He has looked into several issues we've presented him with. However, PRIDE was to return the PIECP Certificate to the possession of the DOC so that agency would have greater oversight of the prison industries and Secretary McNeil recently advised PRIDE to keep the Certificate as he does not have the staff or resources necessary to take over the Certificate and oversight. This was a blow to our mission, but work continues on this issue.
Behind the Scenes of Our Home Page
We also work with prisoners from other states such as Arizona, California and a few others. We have been involved in advocacy on phone call issues involving huge charges for collect calls from prisoners to their families and friends.
Besides the PIECP program, PIECP Violations and Prison Labor advocacy work Jean and I do, we are also involved in Prison Reform Advocacy. We work with inmates and their families to resolve issues important to both. We have gained a solid reputation with many Wardens and Prison Administrators in Tallahassee, Florida.