Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2017

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Chance of Nevada prison system getting $428,000 it is owed ‘is zero’

A defunct Las Vegas company that used prison inmates as employees in its steel business still owes the Nevada Department of Corrections $428,000, but the chances of collecting are slim to none.

The state has secured a court order against Alpine Steel. The Legislative Committee on Prison Industries was told Friday the state Attorney General‘s Office has tried unsuccessfully to collect the money from Alpine owner Randy Bulloch.

Brian Connett, deputy corrections director, told the committee: “Alpine Steel has closed its doors. The chance of getting the money is zero.” He said later that the state may get as much as 15 percent because some of the steel and other equipment belonging to Alpine Steel is still at the High Desert State Prison.

But the price of steel is going down. The last attempt to sell the goods netted a bid of about $50,000. So the prison intends to keep the steel until prices rise.

Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, said Bulloch had pledged in the past to “to make good” on the payment. “I’m disappointed there has not been an arrangement for a payment plan,” said Ohrenschall, who had served as chairman of the committee in the past.

Bulloch hired inmates to work outside on projects, for which they were paid. But his company defaulted on payments to the state for the time of correctional officers and the use of prison facilities.

Connett told the committee that steps have been taken to prevent a similar problem in the future. A private contractor must put up a bond or a personal guarantee before the department will approve any contract.

Inmates who are paid must give up 24.1 percent of their salary to the prison for room and board; 5 percent to finance the victims-of-crime program and 5 percent to help finance expansion of the program.

The corrections department supplied figures that showed 4.1 percent of the 12,876 inmates were in the prison industries program in fiscal 2015. Connett said his goal is to raise that to 5 percent.

He said these jobs are the “most sought after in the prison.” The inmates get paid and they learn a trade, said the deputy director.

Net income to the prison was $976,557 in fiscal year from these programs.

Interim Corrections Director E.K. McDaniel told the committee that plans are being made to set up a gift shop at the century-old Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Items that could be sold to the public include caps and T-shirts.

The prison is closed but it has been designated as a historic site. He said it also might be used for training correctional officers from other states.

The committee elected Assemblyman James Oscarson, R-Pahrump, as its chairman and Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, as vice chairman.

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