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Nv Doc Staffing Report 2006

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INTRODUCTION

At the direction of the Executive Branch Audit Committee, we conducted an audit
of the Department of Corrections. Our audit addressed the following four
questions:
9 What is the Department’s role?
9 What services must the Department provide?
9 Is the State the proper level of government to provide these
services?
9 If State government is the appropriate level of government, is the
Department carrying out its duties efficiently and effectively?
Our audit examined whether the Department should enhance correctional officer
staffing. 1

Agency’s Role and Public Purpose
Nevada established the state prison system in 1864, which was named the
Department of Corrections in 2001. The Board of Prison Commissioners
governs the Department. The Board is composed of the Governor, Secretary of
State, and Attorney General. The Department Director oversees the institutions
and staff responsible for receiving, retaining, then releasing offenders sentenced
to prison.
Prison security is the responsibility of correctional officers who, by statute, must
be peace officers. 2 Correctional officers provide safety and security to the public,
staff, and offenders by ensuring offenders are supervised and remain in custody
until released.
The Department has twenty institutions to house offenders. The institutions
include prisons, conservation camps, and restitution centers 3 (institutions). The
institutions are staffed with correctional officers as follows: See Exhibit I.

1
2

3

Our audit focused on staffing for posts manned seven days a week using 8 hour shifts.
Correctional officers must be peace officers in order to enforce the law, such as controlling offenders both
inside and outside the institution, and pursuing and returning escaped offenders.
Conservation Camps house minimum custody offenders that are employed to support the Nevada Division
of Forestry’s fire suppression and conservation efforts. Restitution Centers offer certain offenders within
one year of prison release, the opportunity to establish employment, which assists in meeting restitution
obligations.

1

Exhibit I
Number of Correctional Officers by Institution
Nevada State Prison
Northern Nevada Correctional Center
Ely State Prison
High Desert State Prison
Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Center
Warm Springs Correctional Center
Northern Nevada Restitution Center
Southern Desert Correctional Center
Lovelock Correctional Center
Casa Grande
Conservation Camps (10)
Total

177
210
289
301
86
63
6
171
213
16
116
1648

The State is the appropriate level of government to receive, retain, and release
offenders. The Department provides a single point of contact statewide for
courts, law enforcement, local governments, and other states.
The Department houses about 12,000 offenders with a total operating budget of
$246 million for fiscal year 2006. The Department employs about 1,648
correctional officers at an estimated cost of $84 million.

Scope and Objective
We use a risk-based approach when selecting agencies for an audit. We focus
our resources on operational areas with the most opportunities for improvement.
A preliminary survey involves understanding an agency's programs through
interviewing staff, observing agency operations, reviewing laws, regulations,
policies, procedures, agency records, strategic plans, budgeting and staffing
levels, and other information on agency activities.
Our audit scope addressed the Department’s correctional officer staffing levels.
We reviewed the procedure used to calculate the number of correctional officers
needed. We analyzed correctional officer staffing data and discussed the
procedure with Department personnel, the Budget and Planning Division, and the
Legislative Counsel Bureau.

2

Our audit focused on the following objective:
9 Should the Department enhance correctional officer staffing?
We performed our audit in accordance with the Standards for the Professional
Practice of Internal Auditing.
The Division of Internal Audits expresses appreciation to the Director and
Department staff for their cooperation and assistance throughout the audit.

Contributors to this report included:
Paula Ward
Executive Branch Auditor IV
Bill Prowse
Executive Branch Auditor III

Department of Corrections
Response and Implementation Plan
We provided draft copies of this report to Department officials for their review and
comments. The Department’s comments have been considered in the
preparation of this report and are included in Appendix A. In its response, the
Department accepted the one recommendation. Further, Appendix B includes a
timetable to implement our report’s one recommendation.
NRS 353A.090 specifies within six months after the Executive Branch Audit
Committee releases the final audit report, the Chief of the Division of Internal
Audits shall evaluate the steps the Agency has taken to implement the
recommendation, and shall determine whether the steps are achieving the
desired result. The Chief shall report the six month follow-up results to the
Committee and Agency officials.
The following report contains our findings, conclusions, and recommendation.

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Should the Department Enhance
Correctional Officer Staffing?
The Department of Corrections should evaluate if its correctional officer staffing
level is appropriate. When determining the proper staffing level, the Department
should consider time officers are away from their posts, and the methods to
compensate for it, including personnel costs and security concerns.
Correctional officers man posts to secure institutions. Posts are locations, such
as secured gun towers, which are placed in strategic locations within an
institution. Towers allow correctional officers to oversee large areas of the prison
at one time. Posts can also be located within housing units with cells where
offenders sleep. Each post may have one or more positions per shift. Officers
man these positions unarmed (except in gun towers) and must physically control
offenders or call for assistance if offenders become aggressive.
The Department establishes posts and positions during the initial design of the
institution. When establishing posts and positions, the Department takes into
account building architecture and type of inmates to be housed in the institution.
Based upon this analysis, the Department submits the posts and positions to the
Budget Division and the Legislature for approval.
Most posts must be manned twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week;
however, this exceeds the time officers are available due to:
9
9
9
9

Regular days off – 2 days each week,
Annual leave,
Sick leave, and
Training.

To cover officers’ time away from their posts, Nevada adopted a “relief factor” in
the late 1970’s. The relief factor provides coverage when officers are not
available to man their positions. Nevada’s relief factor consists of 1.0 full time
correctional officer position, plus an additional 0.6 full time officer for relief. The
Department multiplies the 1.6 relief factor by the number of approved positions to
determine how many officers it needs to provide coverage.
See Exhibit II for an example of the relationship between posts, positions, and
officers:

4

Exhibit II
Example of Relationship
Between Posts, Positions, and Officers
Institution

Post

Position

1.6 staff

Post

Position

Position

1.6 staff

1.6 staff

Position

Position

1.6 staff

1.0

1.6 staff

1.0
.60

1.0

.60

1.0

.60

.60

1.0

.60

Time Away From Posts
Per Department management, for the year ended March 31, 2006, posts were
manned only 83 percent of the time at the Department’s seven largest
institutions. 4 Based on the data provided, shortage of staff for authorized posts
occurred for two reasons, vacancies and off-post duties.
9 Vacancies 5 consist of:
• Hiring – Time it takes to recruit and qualify (physical agility, and
psychological, drug, and background tests) an officer for hiring,
• Pre-service training – Time for required six-week training course
provided to new recruits before manning posts, and
• Instructing – Time correctional officers spend teaching all Department
training.
9 Off Post Duties consist of:
• Military leave – Time officers are on active military duty,
• Physical exams – Time officers use to go to their required
physical exams,

4

5

Based on staffing data for twelve months ended March 31, 2006 at Northern Nevada Correctional Center,
High Desert State Prison, Ely State Prison, Lovelock Correctional Center, Warm Springs Correctional
Center, Southern Desert Correctional Center, and Nevada State Prison.
The time it takes to fill vacancies is approximately three months.

5

•
•

Range qualification – Time officers use to qualify at the firing
range, and
Security transport – Time officers oversee inmate(s) when at the
hospital, in court, or in transit to other institutions.

The current relief factor does not account for vacancies and off-post duties.
Exhibit III compares the current relief factor (1.6) to the actual days officers were
not available to man their posts in the twelve months ending March 2006.

Exhibit III
Comparison of Relief Factor to Actual Days Used
For the Year Ended March 2006

Days in year
Less:
Regular Days Off – 2 days per week
Annual leave days
Sick leave days
Annual training days
Less: Vacancies
Hiring
Pre-service training
Instructing
Less: Off-Post Days

Current
365

Year End
March 2006
365

(104)
(15)
(15)
(3)

(104)
(15)
(15)
(3)
(19)
(3)
(1)

Military leave
Physical exams
Range qualification
Security transport

(2.5)
(.2)
(.3)
(2)
(137)
228

Total Days not available
Days Available
Current Relief Factor 1.0 + (137 divided by 228)

Revised Relief Factor 1.0 + (165 divided by 200)

(165)
200

1.6
1.825

Compensating Methods
The number of officers working on a shift is often insufficient to staff all posts due
to vacancies and off-post duties. If there are too few officers to staff posts and
the shift supervisor believes institutional security would be compromised, the
warden or associate warden of operations will pull officers, shut down a post, or
ask officers to work overtime.

6

•

•

•

Pull Officers– Up to half of the officers manning a post may be moved to
cover another post. Pulls provide the necessary security at higher risk
posts at the cost of inadequate personnel at lower risk posts. This may
keep costs down, but at the expense of security.
Shut down posts – A shut down involves removing officers from their
assigned post to provide security at a higher priority post. Inmates are
removed from or secured at the shut down post. This provides increased
security at both the shut down post and where the officer is reassigned.
However, this may anger offenders whose movements are limited.
Authorize overtime – After pulls and shut downs have been used; the
warden approves overtime in order to maintain security. The warden
represents overtime causes officer fatigue and may decrease their job
performance. Overtime provides the necessary coverage, but at the
high cost of salaries and officer fatigue.

Evaluate Increasing the Relief Factor
The Department should evaluate increasing the relief factor to address overtime,
pulls, shut downs, vacancies, and other off-post duties. In its evaluation the
Department should consider:
9 Costs to hire additional staff,
9 Impact on security, and
9 Sufficiency of data used to determine the amount of vacancies and offpost duties.
We surveyed Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Carolina, whose correctional
facilities have similar population and organizational structure to Nevada.
Correctional staff from these states represent they periodically update their relief
factors to ensure facilities have an adequate number of correctional officers to
maintain security. These states’ relief factors and Nevada’s are based on the
following days. See Exhibit IV.

7

Exhibit IV
Days Used to Compute Relief Factor for Nevada
and Three Other States’ Relief Factors

Regular Days Off
Annual Leave
Sick Leave
Holidays
Training
Vacancies
Off-Post Duties
Relief Factor
Date Last Revised

Nevada
104
15
15
06
3

Oklahoma
104
11
11
11
14

Oregon
104
14
9
0
0

South Carolina
104
14
10
12
5

0
0

0
9

6
18

16
21

1.60
1978

1.79
2003

1.75
2000

2.00
2005

These states use either vacancies and/or time off-post when calculating their
relief factors. Both Oregon and South Carolina include a component to reflect
the time officer positions are vacant. Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Carolina
consider time for off-post duties in their relief factors.
In the past, the Department used a higher relief factor. In 1996, the Department
hired a private contractor to provide security at one of its institutions. The
approved contract provided for a relief factor of 1.72 for its correctional officer
positions.

Personnel Costs
If the Department increased the relief factor, both the number of officers and the
costs would also increase, as shown in Exhibit V.

6

Officers work regular shifts during holidays, receiving holiday pay compensation.

8

Exhibit V
Projected Cost of Increasing Relief Factor

Additional Personnel Costs

$14,000,000.00
1.825

$12,000,000.00
1.8
$10,000,000.00
1.75

$8,000,000.00
$6,000,000.00

1.7

$4,000,000.00
1.65

$2,000,000.00
$0.00

1.6
0

51

103

154

206

231

Additional Corre ctional Officers

The Department currently spends about $3.5 million in overtime (does not
include overtime expended for holidays). Much of this could be avoided if a
larger relief factor were used.

Security Concerns
In the last four years, the inmate population has grown by 15 percent while the
number of reported crimes within the prison system has increased by 113
percent. Crimes include assault and battery, escapes, and weapons possession.
Department management attributes the increase in reported crimes to an
improved reporting system, a more violent population, and an outdated relief
factor.
Department wardens represented the following incidents may have been
prevented or minimized if posts were fully manned as authorized:
•

In March 2006, three offenders with gang affiliations attacked an
offender from a rival gang who an officer was escorting. Policy requires
that two officers escort the gang member, however another officer was
unavailable. As a result of the fight, the four offenders and one officer
received injuries.

•

In March 2006, a fight broke out between two inmates in the institution’s
educational facility. The educational facility did not have an assigned
9

correction officer. An educational staff member had to call for officer
assistance. One offender was injured in the fight.
•

In August 2005, an offender escaped in a vehicle leaving the institution.
One officer was manning the post where two officers were authorized.
During the three months before he was recaptured, the offender
allegedly committed robbery, auto theft, and kidnapping.

Sufficiency of Data
The Department should ensure last year’s vacancies and off-post data is
representative of all institutions. To date, staffing data was only available for one
year at seven of the twenty institutions. Gathering information from all institutions
and for a longer time frame will ensure sufficient data.

Recommendation
1. Evaluate increasing the relief factor

10

Appendix A
Department of Corrections
Response and Implementation Plan

11

12

Appendix B
Timetable for Implementing
Audit Recommendation
In consultation with the Department of Corrections, the Division of Internal Audits
categorized the one recommendation contained within this report as having a
period of less than six months to implement. The Department of Correction’s
target completion date is incorporated from Appendix A.

Recommendation with an anticipated
implementation period of less than six months.
Recommendation
1. Evaluate increasing the relief factor. (page 10)

Time Frame
Completed a

The Division of Internal Audits shall evaluate the corrective action taken by the
Department of Corrections concerning the report recommendation within six
months from the issuance of this report. The Division of Internal Audits must
report the results of its evaluation to the Committee and the Department of
Corrections.

a

Internal Audits will verify the implementation status of this recommendation during its follow-up process.

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