Prison officials prepare programs

Prison officials are getting ready to start two programs designed to keep convicts from returning after their release.

The state-funded transitional center will handle up to 200 nonviolent offenders at any time, and a program for more serious criminals funded by a federal grant will take up to 250 inmates.

Neither program is open to sex offenders, Corrections Director Jackie Crawford told a legislative study committee last week. She said 35 percent of those eligible for the state program are drug offenders and 60 percent are property offenders.

Offender management director Rex Reed told the study committee prisoners will receive a variety of programming designed to help them be successful in society once they are released - from substance abuse counseling to literacy and English as a second language classes. They will get job training and help getting a driver's license and finding a job and a place to live.

She said job skills are vital because just about two-thirds of inmates are either laborers or have no established employment history. More than 40 percent haven't finished high school.

The program will be operated under the name Casa Grande. It was originally proposed for a private contract program, but lawmakers last year decided to have the Department of Corrections operate it. It has about $2.2 million in state funding for staff and operations. Sex offenders and those who have a violent offense in the past five years are not eligible.

Dorothy Nash Holmes said the federal program is aimed at more serious offenders. The Going Home program is funded by a $1.4 million federal grant, and will handle up to 250 inmates over the next three years. It will provide a wide range of services and counseling designed to steer them away from the problems, habits and conduct that landed them in trouble.

Crawford said the idea is to help former inmates become successful - a huge benefit to society by lowering crime and also saving state money by cutting down the 68 percent of inmates who regress.

She pointed out that keeping an inmate in a cell costs the state more than $14,600 a year, while a transitional program such as those proposed costs less than $4,000 a year.

The testimony was presented before the legislative study committee looking into problems with the criminal justice system in rural Nevada. Both transitional programs, however, will be in Las Vegas, where nearly 70 percent of the prison inmates in Nevada originate.


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