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Posted Date: 10/14/2008
Miller Cites “Lack of Oversight or Very Poor Judgment” in Providing Work Release Inmates to Collect Personal Information from the Public

(Carson City, NV; Oct. 14, 2008) – Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, during a Board of Prisons Commission meeting today, pushed for completion of an investigation into a state contracted work release program that supplied workers to an organization that is being investigated for allegations of voter registration fraud. In response, the director of the Nevada Department of Corrections told Miller and the Board that the department has undertaken a full investigation, the results of which will be made available to the board members upon completion, probably within the next week. The inmates on the work release program were supplied through Choices Group, Inc. under contract to the Nevada State Department of corrections (NDOC), to work for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Miller’s concerns about allowing inmates to have access to personal information of private citizens were echoed by board member Attorney General Catherine Masto. The third member of the board, Governor Jim Gibbons did not attend the meeting.

Nevada Revised Statute 209.461 states, in part, that “An offender may not engage in vocational training, employment or a business that requires or permits the offender to... Acquire, review, use or have control over or access to personal information concerning any person who is not incarcerated.”

“This appears to be a case of either a lack of oversight or very poor judgment,” said Miller, who is both a member of the Board of Prison Commissioners as well as the state’s chief elections officer. “This has implications not only for our electoral process, but also the public safety implications of allowing convicted felons to work in an environment that’s clearly contrary to the statutory guidelines. The idea of having people who have been convicted of identity theft or related crimes being paid to collect personal information from private citizens is beyond belief. In my capacity as a commissioner and as chief elections officer, I’m obliged to insist on a complete investigation as to how this happened, who is responsible, and how do we prevent this from ever happening again.”

Skolnik told the Board of Prison Commissioners that the Department of Corrections has identified 59 inmates who worked for ACORN, and that the investigation is looking into potential violations, including possible identity theft by the work-release participants while collecting information for ACORN. The Secretary of State has an ongoing investigation into the activities of ACORN to determine the extent of any fraudulent voter activity or potential identity theft. Skolnik also assured the board that if the investigation determines that any such identity theft occurred, the Department of Corrections will take immediate action to notify the potential victims.