Nevada Steps Up Efforts To Deport Prison Inmates

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Nevada officials have stepped up efforts to deport state prison inmates who are illegal immigrants, and have offered deals to some in order to get them out of the country, the Reno Gazette- Journal reported Sunday.

About 100 inmates who met certain qualifications signed waivers last year saying they wouldn't fight deportation if the state Pardons Board made them immediately eligible for parole, said Greg Smith, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Corrections.

Those inmates were given a list of conditions for release and then turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who took them to the border, Smith said.

"They picked them up and took them to Arizona and transported them out of the country," Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty, who sits on the state Pardons Board, told the Gazette-Journal.

"We received confirmation that they were deported," Hardesty said, adding none was known to have returned as of a few months ago.

Prison officials released an additional 600 inmates to ICE officials over the past fiscal year to start the deportation process, Smith said. Among them were inmates ready for release or eligible for parole.

Their status was not immediately known, ICE officials said.

That left 1,720 inmates with ICE holds out of a total state prison population of 13,014, Smith said. Those remaining were not eligible for early release because of the seriousness of their crimes or criminal histories.

When ICE agents identify an inmate who is in the country illegally, they place a hold on them that requires the inmate to be turned over when released from custody.

The number of Nevada inmates with ICE holds has climbed from 771 in 2001 to the 1,720 at last count, which represents 13.2 percent of the state's prison population, according to the corrections department.

Overcrowded conditions and budget constraints prompted the push to identify and deport inmates who do not have legal status.

Hardesty said officials considered three main factors: whether the inmates had an ICE hold, whether the offense was nonviolent and
whether they had little or no prior criminal history.

"In this process, there were some who were granted release, and many who weren't because of the nature of their crimes," Hardesty said.

Those who were immediately eligible for parole were scheduled for hearings, he said. Those who were not immediately eligible for parole went before the Pardons Board for review.

None of the inmates considered had committed sex crimes, Hardesty said, and most were serving time for drug trafficking and had no previous criminal history.

Hardesty plans to ask the Pardons Board at its Oct. 28 hearing to consider additional deportation cases.

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

AP-NY-10-19-08 2034EDT