(Fred Weinberg) – Last week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal elicited the fact that an inmate of the High Desert Correctional center near Indian Springs which, last November, the Department of Corrections reported had died, turned out to have been killed by gunfire. It took four months for this information to become public. It was NOT the DOC who told us that they had killed an inmate.
The next day, upon further review, it turns out that Carlos Perez Jr. was shot by a still unnamed correctional officer with a shotgun while his hands were cuffed behind his back. In a concrete bunker.
Now, people are writing about a lack of training, lack of pay, lack of equipment at the DOC—at least at High Desert.
Meanwhile, Governor Brian Sandoval, a former Federal Judge, is doing his best Barack Obama, telling folks that he got the news from the media.
And the Nevada Legislature is busy considering bills which will criminalize more behavior and create more prisoners. Quoth the guy who was almost Speaker of the Assembly, “If in fact we do need to send someone to prison, then so be it,” Judiciary Chairman Ira Hansen told the RJ.
That’s pretty tough talk for a self-avowed libertarian.
I just finished reading former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik’s new book, From Jailer to Jailed: My Journey from Correction and Police Commissioner to Inmate #84888-054.
Ira should read it. So should the rest of his merry little band of committee members. Maybe there ought to be a mass evening reading for the rest of the Legislature.
The fact is that the Legislature, in the face of Corrections Officers shooting handcuffed prisoners, is considering about 30 bills which would create even more inmates that Governor Sandoval’s people obviously cannot handle. And make no mistake, these ARE the Governor’s people and a stain on corrections is a stain on his administration, just as surely as he is a faux Republican. He’s so worried about raising taxes on business to spend on the children, he apparently can’t stop his Department of Corrections from shooting handcuffed inmates. Maybe, if his education initiative fails, the kids will at least learn that they shouldn’t be getting shot while handcuffed in a prison.
For the record, those “underpaid” CO’s make between $38,000 and $59,000 a year plus state benefits. Money for state employees isn’t usually the problem. The people running the department not teaching rookie CO’s that you don’t fire shotguns at handcuffed inmates in a concrete bunker, now that may be a problem.
But a bigger problem is politicians who wish to be seen as “law and order”. Kerik makes the point in his book that even the most minimum of security prison camps dehumanize the very people they are supposed to be preparing for re-entry into society and, as a result, they become finishing schools for criminals. If the place he served three years, Cumberland, Maryland, is that, imagine the way our Governor is running Nevada’s fairly expensive prisons.
This nation incarcerates more people than does Russia or China. Kerik said he spent time in the big house with a guy who caught too many fish (you really can’t make this stuff up) and other assorted non-violent white collar guys. All at our expense.
Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating once told me that we need to stop putting people in prison we’re mad at and start putting people in prison we’re afraid of.
And, Kerik points out, that when you just warehouse people—no matter who they are—they come out costing society more in tax dollars.
What do you think is the end result of a bill requiring a felony charge for someone getting caught more than twice putting graffiti on a building? Do you really think a felony is better than making the miscreant clean it up? Is it worth putting someone in prison at between $30,000 and $60,000 a year and giving them the title “convicted felon” so they can’t get a job when they get out? Who has stupid ideas like that? Republican Assemblyman Lynn Stewart is sponsoring AB 244 which would require a person convicted of three graffiti offenses would be guilty of a category C felony which includes a one to five year prison sentence. Sheer genius.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Brower, R-Reno, told the RJ that when lawmakers try to decide the right punishment for a crime, potential inmate growth is not a factor because it is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty. What a load of crap. But then Brower is indeed a big part of the tax and spend crowd.
As much as I hate to agree with Senator Tick Segerbloom (D-Las Vegas), he makes more sense than all of the law and order Republicans put together.
“The reality is everybody comes up here and has a pet peeve to criminalize a certain behavior and lock people up,” he told the RJ. “But the fact is we’ve done that for 20 years, and it hasn’t worked. We need to stop trying to raise penalties and criminalize everything.”
From the mouths of Democrats. Imagine that.
I’d feel a lot better if I heard that amount of common sense from the majority.
Mr. Weinberg is publisher of the Penny Press. Get to know more about him by visiting www.PennyPresslv.com.