Washoe Officials Warn Cuts Will Hurt

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Washoe County law enforcement officials say the criminal justice system will take a severe hit under budget cuts and new rules concerning legal representation for indigents.

District Attorney Dick Gammick said his office may have to forgo prosecuting some misdemeanor cases if he's forced to lay off five
lawyers to meet a 5 percent budget reduction.

Gammick told county commissioners Monday that more misdemeanors
cases would be dropped if he doesn't get 10 more lawyers to meet a
new Supreme Court mandate that public defenders investigate cases
involving indigent people.

The rule, he said, will require his deputies to prepare for trial in cases that otherwise would have settled.

Sheriff Mike Haley said crime prevention programs would cease if
his office loses 32 people.

Commissioners must cut $21 million from current costs to balance the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Washoe County Manager Katy
Singlaub said deeper cuts may be necessary if the state orders further reductions to meet a growing revenue shortfall.

"It's ugly. It's very painful," Singlaub said.

District Judge Connie Steinheimer said cutting the court's budget by 5 percent would eliminate seven jobs, causing a delay in hearing cases and requiring inmates to spend more time in custody.

That would mean added costs for the sheriff, who estimates a night in jail costs $113 per inmate.

Steinheimer proposed that only $11.7 million of its $16.5 million budget be subject to budget cuts. The difference of about $4.7 million is covered by grants and other funding that shouldn't be subject to cuts, she said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)