Nevada prison director promises major cuts to overtime budget |

Nevada prison director promises major cuts to overtime budget

by Geoff Dornan

Director of Corrections James Dzurenda promised lawmakers major changes to reduce or eliminate excessive overtime in the department.

Overtime became a huge issue less than two weeks ago when auditors reported the prison system had run up a $15.5 million deficit in just the first half of this fiscal year and was on track to hit more than $22 million in the red by the end of June.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said at the time the state simply can’t afford that kind of budget over-run.

Dzurenda told lawmakers on the Interim Finance Committee he’s implementing a plan that should cut that overtime bill to just under $3 million and, he said, possibly zero.

Overtime at the department has spiraled out of control since 2013 despite the fact the governor and lawmakers approved adding 120 more correctional officers. In 2013, it was some $2.2 million. By 2017, it was $12.4 million.

Dzurenda said just six months into this fiscal year, “the shortfall was obvious to us and at that time we should have been working with (LCB) fiscal and the governor’s office.”

“Steps should have been taken months ago but were implemented in January,” he said. “We do understand that we own this.”

Dzurenda said he’s dramatically reducing the reasons for granting overtime and he will receive weekly reports identifying all overtime and the justifications for it.

“Right now there are over 20 reasons. That doesn’t make sense to me. There should only be one reason for overtime.”

Dzurenda laid out a plan that includes a major rewrite of how inmates are classified for security reasons and an elaborate game of musical chairs to move them around while Unit 8 at Southern Desert Correctional Center is remodeled to accommodate 400 dangerous inmates.

He said the department is getting a bit of a break as the inmate population has fallen by 365 since December.

Dzurenda said another 100 beds were freed up by moving 30 youthful offenders out of the “boot camp” unit and into the Casa Grande transitional center.

“No one around the country says boot camp does anything,” he said. “It’s a waste of space.”

He said that let him move 100 inmates into those beds, further reducing overcrowding in the system.

Dzurenda said he’s also eliminating programs he said may feel good but do nothing to better prepare inmates for their return to society.