The Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) overcharged prisoners for goods, overpaid some employees for overtime and improperly assigned state-owned vehicles, a new state audit has found.
The findings angered elected officials on the state’s executive branch audit committee, including Attorney General Aaron Ford, who questioned the need for inmates to pay for some basic sanitation supplies.
“Shampoo and deodorant…I’m not sure why they have to pay for that,” Ford said during Tuesday’s meeting. “I just can’t understand.”
The audit also found that some of NDOC’s accounting processes were neither transparent nor accurate, including the misclassification of arms purchases and the inaccurate reporting of vehicles.
NDOC Director Charles Daniels pushed back on some of the findings, pointing to operational difficulties and increased workloads for departmental staff experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and defending overtime deemed excessive in the audit report.
The auditors, who are members of the governor’s office of finance, made four recommendations to ensure greater oversight of financial processes at NDOC, including developing margin limits on products sold in the violators’ store and improving accountability administration.
Although sales of NDOC’s delinquent store fund have been legally required to be regulated since 2010, they have nonetheless remained unregulated, auditors found. The lack of regulation has led to many common items, including food and clothing, being sold at prices of up to 40%, generating more than $10 million in profits for NDOC on approximately 28.5 million in store sales from July 2019 to June. 2021.
“The mark-ups may cause some disadvantaged offenders to struggle to purchase hygiene supplies, food, clothing, stamps and other necessities,” the listeners wrote.
The cost of these goods makes inmates dependent on free hygiene products provided to them by the department, including toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, bar soap and razors.
The report recommended that the NDOC establish mark-up limits to ensure that “offenders can purchase basic necessities at a reasonable cost.”
The audit also found that the NDOC charges offenders excessively high co-payments for medical services, contributing $10.4 million in unpaid and uncollected debts as of September 2021.
According to the findings, the department charges $8 for a medical copayment, more than double the national average, and the audit cites a December 2020 study by the Prison Policy Initiative that found NDOC was the only department state corrections department that had not made changes to its copayment policy during the pandemic.
The auditors recommended that the department reduce medical copayments to encourage inmates to seek basic care and reduce the risk of rising health care costs in the future.
Although Daniels acknowledged some of the issues and said he would look into them, including shampoo charges, he strongly defended his employees’ work at Tuesday’s meeting and called parts of the audit report a “dishonest”.
The audit found that several employees in the NDOC Director’s Office were paid for excessive overtime in 2020 and 2021, which was generally travel-related.
But in a long and emphatic monologue before the committee, Daniels spoke about the need for his staff to make regular trips across the state during the pandemic, as corrections officials struggled to spread information about COVID. -19 and to communicate with the staff of different prisons.
“We did everything we could to be there face to face with our staff, to make sure we were giving them the attention they needed,” Daniels said. “It wasn’t a case of wrongdoing or someone taking advantage of vehicles… We rose to the occasion and I’m proud of my people.”
Governor Steve Sisolak also attested to the hard work corrections staff have been doing throughout the pandemic.
“We’ve had family members who come to these meetings complaining that they can’t get in, we have offenders who complain that they can’t get services, we have employees who complain that they’re working too long” , did he declare. . “You have a lot of complaints.”
Although the issues identified are not entirely new to the NDOC – the report notes that two previous audits found inadequate oversight of payroll and personnel practices – the recommended fixes could take months.
However, the department’s responses included in the audit report indicate that some changes are already underway. The department reviews a medical copayment of $2 a month and writes regulations to ensure there are markup limits for goods sold to prisoners.
DIA 22-05 NDOC.2 Tax Processes by Sean Golonka on Scribd