BEYOND COMPREHENSION: Nevada State’s prison industries program is shrinking so they want a tax subsidy??

CARSON CITY — An inmate was able to save $10,000 working in the state prison industries program and buy his own tools.

Another prisoner saved enough to put a down payment on a home in Arizona when he was released.

Howard Skolnik, director of the state Department of Corrections, said these cases are exceptions and not the rule.

The inmate who saved $10,000 has been in for a long time and is still serving time in one of the prisons in Clark County.

At one time, Skolnik said, Nevada had one of the highest-paying industrial programs in the nation. But the slump in the economy has hit the prison work force.

Brian Connett, deputy director in charge of the industrial programs, said the number of inmates working in the programs dropped from 630 in June 2009 to 474 this June.

Connett said jobs were lost in a number of industries when companies pulled out or downsized their operations.

For instance, Shelby American, which made fiber glass parts and employed 60 inmates, shut down its prison operation.

On Tuesday, Skolnik told the Legislative Committee on Industrial Programs that losing those jobs means losing revenue those prisoners paid for room and board. THE PRISONS WILL BE ASKING FOR A SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATION THIS FISCAL YEAR, he said.

A report shows that inmates in prison industries paid $718,642 in fiscal 2010 compared to $657,251 in 2009.

Skolnik and Connett said the increase in revenue was the result of higher-paying jobs.

Inmates who are working must pay 24 percent of their gross wages to offset SOME of the costs of room and board. Five percent goes to help build or expand prisons and 5 percent is sent to the Fund for Compensation of Victims of Crime.

The prison system has $165,183 in a fund for new construction for prison industries. Connett told the committee the Legislature last year swept $948,000 out of the account to help solve the state’s budget problem.

He also said the prison wrote off $884,000 mostly owed by two or three companies. The debts have been turned over to the state controller for collection. They were not identified.

By Cy Ryan Las Vegas Sun