Funding Sought to Deal With New Nevada Parole Law

A state panel recommended Tuesday that lawmakers approve nearly $1.3 million in emergency funding to help Nevada parole officials deal with a new law giving additional rights to inmates seeking release from prison.

The Board of Examiners, chaired by Gov. Jim Gibbons, forwarded the funding request to the Legislature's Interim Finance Committee, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

SB471, approved earlier this year by lawmakers, requires the board to give inmates reasonable notice of their hearings, and allows inmates to be present. Inmates also can have legal representation at the hearings.

Until now, the board hadn't visited prisons to hear inmates' applications for parole, and instead made its decisions based on the prisoners' record.

Dorla Salling, chairwoman of the state Board of Parole Commissioners, said the emergency funding will pay for new staffers to help deal with the new law - but cautioned that the parole process won't move any faster and more funding will be needed later on.

"I don't doubt that I'll be back for more money, but this will certainly get us started," Salling said in response to concerns by Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Board of Examiners member.

Miller questioned whether the $1.3 million emergency appropriation would be enough to deal with a backlog in parole hearings.

The parole process also was affected by another new law, AB510,
speeding up release eligibility for up to 1,400 inmates.

But despite the demands on the parole board, the governor and key
legislators have opposed the idea of a special session to help deal
with the impact of the legislative changes.

AB510 doubles the good-time credits that low-risk, nonviolent inmates are eligible to receive in efforts to reduce overcrowding in prisons and cut the need for new prison construction.

State Corrections Director Howard Skolnik recently said that Nevada prisons now hold about 1,000 more inmates than they're designed for.

While AB510 was expected to speed up release eligibility for up to 1,400 convicts, he said at least 600 of those inmates are still behind bars.

Skolnik said part of the problem in keeping track of the convicts' status is a new computer system. He said the system is working, but a hiring freeze ordered by the governor has held up the hiring of some of the technicians needed to run it.


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