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John L Smith: Prison Guards' Case Could Wreak Havoc On State's Finances

High Desert State Prison/Wikimedia Commons

Prison guards in Nevada scored a major victory last week when a federal appeals court ruled in their favor. 

It could mean the state is on the hook for $100 million in damages and unpaid wages.

It’s a case that has gone on for years and involves more than 500 guards, who say they should have been paid for tasks performed immediately before and after the official start of their shift. 

“It really reflects the history of mixed respect for this very important but really underrated job in state government,” State of Nevada contributor John L. Smith said.

Smith noted that correction officers perform an important duty but they have suffered cutbacks and workload increases over the years.

He explained that the lawsuit is connected to debriefings that officers were required to go to but for which they weren't paid.

"When they complained about it, they were rebuffed saying this was just part of the job,” he said.

Correction officers receive the same training as police officers, which means that many leave the job when another job at a different law enforcement agency opens up.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision allows the court case to go forward and if more former correction officers sign onto the case then the price tag could go up.

Smith said no matter how everything shakes out the lawsuit has brought attention to the issue.

“It focuses on attention on this group that deserves respect and compensation," he said, "I think if there is something to be won on both sides from it, it’s that.”


“The Las Vega Book Festival is an amazing kind of buoyant event for the community and for downtown especially,” Smith said.

Smith said the festival drew even more people than usual. He led the panel discussion on the Bundy family.

“It was a lively discussion about the phenomenon of the Bundys. Not just the political part but also the character of the family, the role in the state, and the kind of symbolism that they’ve generated for western public lands issues and of course the long battle for control of those,” he said.

Smith said the festival "seems to be taking on some weight" and beginning to bring in nationally known writers, pundits and poets.

“It was a soup-to-nuts deal. If you walked around and you liked books you found something to enjoy about this,” he said.


“I’m really looking forward to this. First of all, it’s always great when you can have three governors who have to answer your questions.”

Smith will be moderating a panel featuring three former Nevada governors, Bob List, Bob Miller and Brian Sandoval. The forum is being presented by the Friends of the Nevada State Museum Las Vegas

Smith said the three former governors will talk about what they thought they knew before going into office and what they learned during their often tumultuous years in office.

John L Smith, KNPR contributor

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.