On Tuesday, department Director James Dzurenda briefed Gov. Brian Sandoval and other state officials on the causes of the high overtime payments. The state doled out $12.5 million in such payments in the 2016 fiscal year.
Dzurenda said increasing numbers of medical trips for inmates to hospitals that require intensive staffing and an increasing vacancy rate are contributing factors.
The agency had 172 correctional officer vacancies on Tuesday, not counting those on vacation or sick leave, he said in a report to the state Board of Examiners.
“At any given time we can have 300 staff members who are on some type of leave,” Dzurenda said.
The agency accounted for almost one-third of the nearly $47 million in overtime accrued by all state departments in 2017.
Members of the Legislature recently expressed concern about the high level of overtime, given the increase in staffing of correctional officers and the 9 percent pay hike approved in the agency’s budget.
Sandoval said the overtime issue has existed all the time he has served as governor. He asked if the location of some facilities in rural communities such as Ely and Lovelock is a factor.
“That’s part of it,” Dzurenda said. “Ely is an extremely difficult place to be able to hire new recruits.”
Ely State Prison, 320 miles east of Carson City, is where the state’s maximum security prison and death row population are located.
Some fixes in the works include shipping 200 inmates to out-of-state institutions and remodeling a wing at the Southern Desert Correctional Center that could accommodate 400 inmates from the current 200. The Nevada Legislature this year approved both requests.
But Dzurenda said the repairs at Southern Desert will take two years, and in the meantime the unit will have to be closed.
Contact Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.
Overtime costs by selected Nevada state agencies in Fiscal Year 2017
Total overtime: $46.8 million
Department of Corrections: $15.5 million
Department of Health & Human Services: $10.6 million
Department of Public Safety: $7.3 million
Department of Transportation: $5.6 million
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources: $3.2 million