Nevada prison industries program turns a profit

CARSON CITY — Helped by boarding 1,500 U.S. Bureau of Land Management wild horses, the state’s prison industries program turned a profit in the latest fiscal year after operating in the red during the previous year.

The Department of Corrections reported Friday that it earned profits of $432,637 in the year that ended June 30 compared with $237,792 in losses the previous year.

Inmates are paid to work in businesses in the prison and use their income to pay for room and board and restitution costs. The work inmates perform is not supposed to compete with private industry.

Much of the gain was because of the growth in sales in the auto restoration and upholstery program at the Southern Desert Correctional Center near Indian Springs and the horse program at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City.

Brian Connett, deputy corrections director, told members of the Legislature’s Committee on Industrial Programs that the state agency plans to add another 500 wild horses to the 1,500 that already are boarded on the prison farm. Inmates train and auction off wild and stray horses.

The auto and upholstery shop turned a $221,060 profit in the 2013 fiscal year, compared with a $148,394 loss the previous year. Among other things, inmates restore classic cars.

About 490, or 3.8 percent, of the Corrections Department’s 12,786 inmates held jobs in October.

Legislators were told that the state’s new license plate factory near the Northern Nevada Correctional Center might not open until April 2016. Inmates have manufactured license plates at the Nevada State Prison since 1928. The old prison has been closed, but inmates are still trucked to the prison grounds to work at the factory.

“I thought it would open a lot quicker than that,” said Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, the committee chairman.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Follow him on Twitter at @edison vogel.