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Prison inmates would earn ‘living wage’ under Legislature bill

CARSON CITY — Prison inmates may soon be paid minimum wage under a bill considered by lawmakers Wednesday.

Senate Bill 187, sponsored by Sen. Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, would require offenders to be paid “a living wage” and would establish a savings account that could be accessed once the offender is released from prison. The “living wage” is defined as being “equivalent” to the state minimum wage or a prevailing wage set by a federal prison industry certification program.

Currently in Nevada, the minimum wage is $9.50 per hour for employers that offer health care to employees and $10.50 per hour for those that don’t.

Neal emphasized the importance of paying those in prison for the work they perform while serving out their sentences.

“It only makes sense to allow them to make some money to take care of themselves on the back end, because we’re paying for them on the front end. And then we’re paying for them when they hit the street,” Neal said.

Under the bill, certain wage deductions would be eliminated, except deductions for restitution for victims of the offender’s crime, funds to be directed towards the offender’s family or the amount to be placed in the offender’s individual account.

The bill also bars offenders from having to pay more than $3.47 in copays for medical treatment and requires debts for medical care be dropped once the offender is released from prison. The proposed legislation also requires the Department of Corrections to place offenders in programs that can help with employment following their release.

In an amendment filed by Neal, the bill would also prevent the Nevada Department of Corrections from charging interest on debt accumulated while in prison and would block the department from charging collection agency fees.

Neal introduced similar legislation during the 2021 legislative session, but that legislation died without a bill hearing.

Several groups spoke in support of the bill, including representatives from the Clark and Washoe County public defenders’ offices, Return Strong and Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice. The corrections department testified without taking a position on the bill, and said officials were working to provide the cost of the proposed legislation.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

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