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Right on Crime | July 24, 2011
Ronnel Pingul, a former dealer at a casino on the famous Las Vegas Strip, spiraled into a life of addiction following a back injury. He became addicted to his painkillers, and turned to heroin soon after, followed by a burglary conviction. He will be released in the next month, but instead of being kicked to the curb with no support system (the standard operating procedure in Nevada), he will be leaving prison with work skills and experience. The Las Vegas Sun has the story.
Pingul is part of a new program that allows for nonthreatening inmates who are close to their release dates to leave the prison every morning to work at M-Truss & Components under Tom McBride. The inmates walk to the adjacent work site and assemble steel supports. The men are paid minimum wage – minus restitution or child support that they owe – and the money goes into an account which they can take with them upon release. But more important than money, the workers get honest work and valuable skills training – both of which are essential as they seek to safely re-enter society.
Nevada’s system is far from flawless. Lock ‘em up and throw away the key policies are prevalent, but a new approach is clearly emerging. Recent reforms by Republican leaders seeking to cut criminal justice spending and lower recidivism rates are catching on, especially amidst the recent economic downturn.
McBride said of the prisoners who work at the plant: “They’re employees, and I treat them as employees…When you show them the respect of a fellow human being…it gives them a lot of self-confidence, and that will help them get back in society.”