NEVADA – According to the Department of Corrections, Nevada’s prisons are grappling with 661 law enforcement vacancies, prompting concerns over safety and security. The Fraternal Order of Police Nevada C.O. Lodge 21, representing nearly 400 correctional officers, is advocating for improved pay as a solution.
Paul Lunkwitz, president of the union, expressed apprehension about the consequences of the understaffing issue, stating, “Eventually that string will snap and eventually it’s gonna cause a very serious incident.”
The Special Board of Examiners, composed of Governor Joe Lombardo, Attorney General Aaron Ford, and Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar, recently discussed a new contract proposal for correctional officers. The contract includes a two-pay-grade increase in salaries for the officers.
While Ford and Aguilar voted in favor of the pay raise, Lombardo opposed it due to concerns with certain contract provisions, such as holiday pay and additional personal days. Lombardo’s spokesperson emphasized his commitment to delivering pay increases, cost-of-living adjustments, and retention incentives for all public safety employees.
The union had initially requested a 42% raise but is willing to settle for a 32% increase. Lunkwitz highlighted that nearly 23% of correctional officers’ salaries are contributed to the state pension program, and neighboring law enforcement agencies offer substantially higher salaries.
Insufficient staffing levels within Nevada prisons have resulted in lockdowns and increased incidents of violence. High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, located about a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas, has witnessed a surge in violence. In an email obtained by the 8 News Now Investigators, the prison warden expressed concerns about use-of-force incidents, inmates’ noncompliance with staff directives, and threats of staff assault.
Recent incidents have involved inmates attempting to use makeshift weapons against officers, leading to heightened security measures. In April, four officers were reassigned after the death of an inmate during a use-of-force incident. The incident is currently under investigation by the Nevada Department of Public Safety and the Attorney General’s office.
The prison system has also faced staffing challenges during important occasions, such as Mother’s Day, resulting in visitation shutdowns and partial lockdowns. Recent cell searches have yielded the confiscation of weapons, a cell phone, and a significant quantity of methamphetamine.
A spokesperson for Governor Lombardo expressed concern about the state prison system and highlighted efforts to streamline the hiring process for faster onboarding and to launch a marketing campaign to promote careers in corrections.
Credits: 8 News Now
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