Cannizzaro challenges jail director on inmate cash seizures

NDOC’s seizure of funds given to family members of inmates has put the division on the hot seat. (Photo: Nevada Department of Corrections)NDOC’s seizure of funds given to family members of inmates has put the division on the hot seat. (Photo: Nevada Department of Corrections)

Senate majority leader Nicole Cannizzaro, a prosecutor by profession, knows a thing or two about Marsy’s Law, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018.

“For me, the Marsy Act is not the reason why the percentages change,” Cannizzaro said Thursday of an unannounced decision by Corrections Director Charles Daniels last year that up to 80 percent of the funds held in inmate accounts were held to seize. “I wish there was a better answer than this Marsy’s Law because the language in Marsy’s Law doesn’t say that.”

“In my opinion, the process seemed to be working pretty well,” Daniels said during the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Daniel’s noted that the Board of Prison Commissioners later reduced the attachment to 50 percent.

“At no point did the director do what the governor asked – sit with the families,” said Ayanna Simmons, whose loved one is behind bars.

NDOC stands behind a invoice This would realign the priorities for the distribution of the money seized from inmates’ accounts, including wages and cash deposits from friends and family.

Cannizzaro said the focus on prioritizing the distribution of funds seized from prisoners “glosses over some of the issues that have brought this to the fore”.

“The real problem is how much is being withdrawn from the perpetrators’ accounts,” she said.

Cannizzaro made a distinction between the perpetrators’ confiscated wages because “a refund was imposed on them. This is a little different than with family members who send money for food or postage.

“Where does this reasonable amount come from?” she asked NDOC officials.

“There’s nothing in Marsy’s law that prevents the law from entering a percentage, is there?”

Nevada law gives the NDOC director the power to make “reasonable” deductions from outside inmates’ income and deposits.

Inmates’ relatives, who have been banned from correctional facilities for a year, testified that the seizures, which began on September 1, were far from sensible and added to fear during the pandemic. It has also changed the dynamics of the prison, they said, and some inmates muscled others for money.

“Regardless of how we put it, our money will be garnished,” said Denise Villanos against the measure. The $ 100 she can send her husband to jail every month allows him to buy soap, detergent, and other toiletries, she says.

“Regardless of who they are or what they did … they are still human,” she told lawmakers. “The person responsible for the crime should pay for it. They are actually taking it away from us. “

In a letter scanned on a testimonial, one inmate said about the prints that his mother had to “send $ 17.50 so I can buy a $ 2.50 deodorant.”

The Nevada Association of Criminal Justice filed an “unkind amendment” that:

  • Cap wage deductions at 50 percent
  • Limit family bail deductions to 25 percent
  • Allow a deposit of up to $ 300 once per quarter with no deduction
  • NDOC would make statements to inmates so that the prints are transparent.

“Without legal protection, the imprisoned families are in an extremely stressful situation where they are not sure whether they can provide for their loved ones from the inside,” said Will Pregman of Battle Born Progress in support of the change.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Progressive Alliance of Nevada have also spoken out in favor of the change.

Senator Dallas Harris asked the Corrections Department why inmates are paying reimbursements to their individual victims, as well as into a victim compensation fund that provides assistance to victims who file a claim. She compared the practice to “double-dipping” and promised to do more research.