State considers reality TV show based in a Nevada prison

Nevada's head of Prison Industries is hoping one new offering on TV next year may be a reality TV show set in a Nevada prison.

Howard Skolnik said the concept is a show centered on the prison auto restoration shop at Southern Desert Correctional Center.

"It's like Monster Garage or Orange County Choppers - like that but based in the institution," he said.

Skolnik will Thursday present the plan to the Legislature's Committee on Industrial Programs, a panel headed by Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, which oversees programs in Prison Industries.

He said a team of Hollywood producers contacted him with the idea. He said they did a story about four years ago for The Travel Channel called "Only in Las Vegas." One of the segments featured the prison's playing-card sorting business, which repackages casino playing cards for private sale. Skolnik said the producers called several months ago and asked how he would react to a reality TV show based in the auto shop.

"I called the people I needed to talk to and nobody said don't do it. So they put together a pilot and they're in the process of hawking it out there right now," said Skolnik.

He said the essence of the show would be to follow the restoration of a car in each episode and follow the inmates working on the projects.

"It would be a weekly show if they can sell it," Skolnik said. "This is a reality twist that nobody else has got, really - and I don't know how many states have somebody as crazy as me who'd allow it to happen."

He said the show could draw more customers to the auto restoration shop, which is already doing about three-quarters of a million dollars worth of business a year. He said the prison system has a clothing shop that could make and market its own clothing line for the show and the state as well as the inmates would get money for the show itself.

"This could create a tremendous amount of jobs for Prison Industries," he said.

He said sponsors might also be willing to help out with some of the auto shop's needs: "We could use a new spray booth. Maybe they'll find somebody out there will to give us a spray booth for a sponsorship."

Skolnik said the show would also present a much more positive image of inmates on TV than some other shows.

"What really drove me to it was that it's such a nice counterpoint to 'OZ'," he said referring to HBO's raw-edged prison life show. "It shows inmates productive, engaged and working on self-improvement and destroys so many of those myths."

And he said it could result in good job offers for some of the inmates working in the auto shop.

He said everyone he has presented the concept to in the state has been a bit skeptical, "but all were willing to see if we could make it work."

He said all depends on whether the producers from Studio City are able to sell a network on the idea.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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