New Nevada Parole Law Raises Concerns

A new Nevada law giving additional rights to prison inmates in their efforts to win parole is going to cause an apparent logjam and raises additional legal questions.

To reduce the prison population and curtail the need for new facilities, the Legislature authorized additional retroactive sentence reduction credits for prisoners and probationers for good behavior and other reasons.

One immediate effect will be that more than 920 probationers will require no further supervision by the state Division of Parole and Probation. And as many as 1,000 more inmates may be eligible to apply for parole in October, beyond the 800 applications normally processed.

"I can see a train wreck coming, " said Dorla Salling, chairwoman of the state Board of Parole Commissioners. "I can see people not getting out on time."

Salling said the board is not equipped to handle such a heavy caseload, and the staffing shortage could be compounded by the fact that hearings may last longer.

Under the new law, inmates must get "reasonable" notice of the board's meeting and the opportunity to attend. Currently, the board does not visit prisons to hear inmates' applications for parole, instead making its decisions based on the prisoners' record.

Salling said the attorney general's office will be asked for a legal opinion whether a video conference with the prisoner complies with the law.

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