It would be nice if there were a solution to the state's overcrowded prisons that was good for both the budget and the residents of the state.
But there's not, and lawmakers will have to decide whether the savings they'd get from releasing prisoners early would be worth the threat to society. If they approve AB510, which would double the credits inmates get for good behavior, about 1,600 lower-risk inmates would qualify for release from Nevada's prisons. The parole of another 2,000 other inmates would expire.
The millions of dollars that would be saved is good news. And it is mildly reassuring that those released would not include sex offenders or violent criminals, although Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik warned legislators that "medium- and maximum-security inmates could get out earlier as well."
Another bill, AB509, would require that a certain amount of inmates be paroled if the prison system exceeds 97 percent capacity.
The problem is that it is a certainty that some, perhaps many, of those released early will reoffend and victimize others. Lower-risk is not no-risk. It is also a tough pill to swallow for the victims of these criminals. The sentence they received as punishment would suddenly be a lie and getting "tough on crime" would seem like a hollow threat.
It would be more reassuring if there were funds available to help these released prisoners transition back into society, but spending money on them would defeat the purpose of releasing them.
Whatever legislators choose, money or security, there's no way to make this a win-win for Nevada residents.