Nationally known experts on prisons and corrections will meet with Nevada lawmakers today to suggest changes they say could help reduce growth of inmate numbers by reducing the growth of crime.
Michael Thompson, of the Justice Center of the Council of State Governments, said research shows specific neighborhoods in different parts of the state are "driving the growth of prison populations."
"We have found a huge number of people streaming into the system from just a few ZIP codes in the state," he said. "We need to think about a smarter strategy in those districts."
Combined with that geographic pattern of where the inmate population is coming from, he said, is the extremely high number of inmates with drug, alcohol and mental health problems.
And in Nevada specifically, he said, research shows the probation system is broken.
"Nearly half the people sent to probation are revoked," he said. "And a huge issue is the failure to connect these people to substance-abuse and mental-health treatment."
He said he and prison consultant James F. Austin will join Dr. Fred Osher to recommend Nevada lawmakers put their money into better substance-abuse and mental-health programs targeting those neighborhoods where crime is worst rather than just building more prisons.
"If you do nothing, you're in effect making a decision to grow the prison population," said Thompson. "Our question is, is that the smartest way to fight crime in this state."
The three experts will appear today before three different committees to make their presentations.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.