Judge Says 500 Remain in Nevada Prisons Despite Being Paroled

More than 500 inmates still are in Nevada prisons despite the fact they have been granted parole, the state Board of Prison Commissioners has been told.

Justice Jim Hardesty told the panel, chaired by Gov. Jim Gibbons, that many of the parolees aren't getting out because there's no room for them in programs mandated as a condition for their release - and in some cases all the conditions aren't necessary.

"There is a lack of facilities or treatment capability to meet the conditions that were imposed," said the Supreme Court justice, who is chairing a study commission reviewing prison overcrowding and Nevada's sentencing laws.

"A number of inmates have had conditions imposed on them - for example, inpatient treatment - who may not need inpatient treatment," he added Thursday.

State Corrections Director Howard Skolnik told the board that there are another 500-plus inmates who are eligible for parole hearings but, because of the state Parole Board's heavy workload, haven't had a hearing yet. He said that number will be about 800 by year's end.

Hardesty said that means, "there are over 1,000 inmates in who should be out. If we can figure a way to get this bubble out of the prison, the impact to this department's budget and the state's budget would be huge."

The Parole Board's workload was increased by recent law changes that retroactively doubled the amount of good-time credits an inmate can earn, and allowed inmates to attend parole hearings and to have a representative present.

Skolnik said the result is the average parole hearing is now 45 minutes - three times as long as it used to be.

Skolnik also said Nevada's prison population is now more than 13,400, about 250 more than his department was budgeted for. He noted the Southern Desert Correctional Center, which was built for a maximum of 750 inmates, now holds nearly 1,700 convicts.

He also said more prison beds are needed for women inmates, a facility for aging convicts should be set up, and part of the High Desert prison in southern Nevada should be upgraded to maximum-security to eliminate double-bunking at the existing "max" Ely State Prison.

The oldest cellblock at the Nevada State Prison in Carson City will have to be shut down because it's too old and no longer cost-effective to run, Skolnik added.

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Information from: Nevada Appeal, http://www.nevadaappeal.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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