Events

July 11: Prison Reform Roundtable – Livestream only

Date: July 11, 2017
Time: Livestream-only event starts at 7 p.m.
Cost: There is no cost to view this livestream video.

Prison reform is one of the most pressing issues facing our state today. In this special livestreamed-only roundtable, we’ll bring together some of our state’s foremost experts on criminal justice and the prison system to discuss different perspectives and approaches to prison reform in Nevada.

During the roundtable, our panelists will take a look at several critical issues facing Nevada prisons:

  • Compare Nevada to the rest of the nation in prison overcrowding and recidivism rates.
  • Examine the reasons for recidivism and overcrowding.
  • Discuss the effectiveness of our state’s prison practices and programs.
  • Discuss the best methods to reduce recidivism and reduce the prison population, including education and job placement.
  • Seek consensus on agreed upon prison reform initiatives.

Following the event, the roundtable will be available for viewing on The Mob Museum website.

Panelists include Jim Dzurenda, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections; Phil Kohn, chief public defender; Jon Ponder with Hope for Prisoners; Tod Story with the American Civil Liberties Union; and District Attorney Steve Wolfson. Judge Carolyn Ellsworth will moderate the panel. 


James Dzurenda, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) since April 2016, began his career in 1987 as an officer in a local jail in Connecticut. He worked his way through the ranks where he served as a jail lieutenant and then in the community on statewide Gang Task Force in Collaboration with Connecticut State Police, FBI, DEA, ATF, State’s Attorney Police Inspectors, and several local law enforcement agencies. See below for more details.

 

Phil Kohn was appointed Clark County Public Defender on April 6, 2004.  Kohn obtained his law degree from McGeorge Law School. He has served on the Southern Nevada Criminal Justice Task Force and the Fondi Commission. He is also a member of the Nevada Supreme Court Task Force on Indigent Defense and is a graduate of the Leadership Las Vegas Class of 2000. See below for more details.

 

Jon D. Ponder is the founder and CEO of HOPE for Prisoners, Incorporated. As CEO, Ponder is responsible for overseeing a comprehensive array of program components designed to assist individuals within the judicial system to successfully reintegrate into mainstream society. He is responsible for developing and implementing strategic planning for the organization and is extremely passionate about the value of mentoring for persons coming out of correctional settings. See below for more details.

 

 Tod Story joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada in 2013. From 1999 to January 2013, he was the district director for U.S. Representative Shelley Berkley, where he oversaw community outreach, constituent services and digital communications and previously had been an aide to U.S. Senator Richard Bryan. See below for more details.

 

 As Clark County’s top prosecutor, District Attorney Steve Wolfson leads the largest and busiest law firm in the state of Nevada. Wolfson manages a $65 million budget and over 700 employees, including 170 attorneys, in four different divisions who, combined, handle nearly 100,000 cases annually. See below for more details.

 

Prior to her appointment in 2011 to Department 5 of the Eighth Judicial District Court, Judge Carolyn Ellsworth had practiced law in Clark County since 1980. She received her Juris Doctorate from Southwestern University School of Law in 1979. She has served in the Clark County District Attorney’s Office as chief deputy district attorney, the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office as administrator of the securities division, in corporate and private practice. Her professional and community involvements have included serving as president of the Southern Nevada Association of Women Attorneys, vice president of Nevada Women’s Lobby and President of  W.E.C.A.N, Inc. (Working to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect).

Featured Panelists

Jim Dzurenda  

Jim Dzurenda


James Dzurenda, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) since April 2016, began his career in 1987 as an officer in a local jail in Connecticut. He worked his way through the ranks where he served as a jail lieutenant and then in the community on statewide Gang Task Force in Collaboration with Connecticut State Police, FBI, DEA, ATF, State’s Attorney Police Inspectors, and several local law enforcement agencies.

Following his promotion to captain, he was assigned to the Regional Office for Connecticut Department of Corrections (CTDOC) where he was the DOC liaison for the Office of the Attorney General working on litigation for cases in state and federal courts in Connecticut as well as 2nd Circuit Court in New York City.

Dzurenda was then appointed to warden at several state prisons where he consolidated the state’s chronic mentally ill population to one facility, developing programs which were later used as a national model.

Over the next few years, Dzurenda was appointed to district warden, deputy commissioner of operations, and ultimately commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Correction. As commissioner, he managed all custody and operations, which included 18 facilities, 19,000 inmates, 7,000 staff members and more than $350 million in state funding which did not include medical and mental health services. At the same time, Dzurenda also had a dual role as commissioner of parole and community enforcement which supervised approximately 6,000 offenders on parole or community service.

During his tenure in Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy appointed Dzurenda to several legislative commissions which included the State’s Sentencing Commission, Retirement Commission and Criminal Justice Interagency Commission.

Dzurenda retired from state service in August 2014, and then accepted a new role as first deputy commissioner for the New York City Department of Correction overseeing the city jails in each of the Five Burroughs, District Courts and Rikers Island. In New York City he managed 14,000 staff, 9,000 inmates and a $2.75 billion budget.

Phil Kohn  

Phil Kohn


Phil Kohn was appointed Clark County Public Defender on April 6, 2004.  Kohn obtained his law degree from McGeorge Law School. He has served on the Southern Nevada Criminal Justice Task Force and the Fondi Commission. He is also a member of the Nevada Supreme Court Task Force on Indigent Defense and is a graduate of the Leadership Las Vegas Class of 2000.

With an office of more than 170 attorneys and staff, the Clark County Public Defender’s Office is one of the largest law firms in the state of Nevada. The office is organized into teams. An attorney is appointed immediately after the initial arraignment and represents the client to the conclusion of the case in Justice or District Court.

The office has specialized teams dedicated to juvenile court, homicide cases, sexual assault cases and appeals. In addition, the office has a dedicated training officer who has developed an extensive training program for new attorneys and provides continued legal education for experienced staff.  The office also has a nationally recognized litigation support department.

Jon Ponder  

Jon Ponder


Jon D. Ponder is the founder and CEO of HOPE for Prisoners, Incorporated. As CEO, Ponder is responsible for overseeing a comprehensive array of program components designed to assist individuals within the judicial system to successfully reintegrate into mainstream society. He is responsible for developing and implementing strategic planning for the organization and is extremely passionate about the value of mentoring for persons coming out of correctional settings. He routinely collaborates with board members, Advisory Council, community organizations, churches, and government agencies, with a focus on collaborative and synergistic approaches. Ponder is an ex-offender with more than twelve years’ experience in providing training for offender populations in correctional settings. His personal life experiences uniquely equip him to provide the guidance, direction and motivation for individuals attempting to navigate the challenges they face during the reintegration process. Ponder also is the founder and co-chair of the Coalition of Reentry Evangelicals, serves in key leadership roles with the International Church of Las Vegas, and is an ordained chaplain with Chaplaincy Nevada. He serves on the executive committee of RECAP (Rebuilding Every Community Around Peace) with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Jon and his wife Jamie have three daughters.

  • Appointed to Governor’s Reentry Taskforce, State of Nevada in 2016
  • Appointed to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Nevada State Advisory Committee in 2016
  • Recipient of the Good Neighbor Empowerment Award in 2014
  • Featured in KCM Believers Voice of Victory, April 2014 Edition
  • Recipient of the Community Awareness Award, Foundation for Recovery, 2014
  • Recipient of the ICLV Community and Leadership Award, 2015
  • Recipient of Congressional Record in 2015
Tod Story  

Tod Story


Story joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada in 2013. From 1999 to January 2013, he was the district director for U.S. Representative Shelley Berkley, where he oversaw community outreach, constituent services and digital communications and previously had been an aide to U.S. Senator Richard Bryan. Story graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, with an emphasis in public relations and political science. He has been active in many community and political organizations, as a board member, volunteer communications director to executive board member. He cares deeply about Nevada, the place he considers home since moving to Las Vegas in 1984, and lives in Henderson, with his husband Michael, and their two beagles.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson  

District Attorney Steve Wolfson


As Clark County’s top prosecutor, District Attorney Steve Wolfson leads the largest and busiest law firm in the state of Nevada. Wolfson manages a $65 million budget and over 700 employees, including 170 attorneys, in four different divisions who, combined, handle nearly 100,000 cases annually.

Wolfson joined the Clark County District Attorney’s Office in February of 2012, upon appointment by the Clark County Board of Commissioners. He was chosen to serve the three years remaining on a four-year term vacated by the previous district attorney who retired. Clark County voters elected Wolfson to the position in November of 2014 in a landslide victory where he came away with over 72% of the votes.  He began serving his first full four-year term in January of 2015.

Wolfson came to the County from the city of Las Vegas where he served nearly eight years as a city councilman. He was elected to that office in a special election in June, 2004 and ran unopposed in 2005, and again in 2009.

Wolfson is the past president of the Nevada District Attorney’s Association.  He also serves as a member of Governor Sandoval’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Council, a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission for Kids, a member of the Commission on Statewide Rules of Criminal Procedure, a member of the nationwide group Prosecutors Against Gun Violence and a member of the HOPE for Prisoners Advisory Council.  Since taking office he has implemented the D.A. Ambassador Program, a community education and outreach program for employees in the District Attorney’s Office. Additionally, his office is also active on various social media platforms, furthering his commitment to transparency and outreach.

Wolfson brings many years of legal experience to the District Attorney’s Office.  After starting his career in the D.A.’s office in 1980, where he served as a Deputy District Attorney, Wolfson then served as a Federal Prosecutor.  In 1987, he entered the private sector where he practiced criminal defense for 25 years.

Wolfson has been active with the State Bar of Nevada by serving on the Board of Governors, the Judicial Ethics and Campaign Election Practices Committee, and other bar-related committees. Additionally, Wolfson was chairman of the State Bar of Nevada Ethics 2000 Committee, a blue ribbon committee established by the Nevada Supreme Court, to review and bring up-to-date all Supreme Court rules involving attorney conduct.

Wolfson was born in Los Angeles, Calif. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from San Diego State University and a Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law.  Wolfson has been married more than 30 years to former District Court Judge Jackie Glass (ret.). They have two grown daughters, Rachel and Rebecca.