Legislative staff asked to look at switching Parole and Probation

Legislative staff was asked Tuesday to look into the costs or benefits of moving Parole and Probation out of the Department of Public Safety and putting it in the Department of Corrections.

Assemblyman David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said to his knowledge, Nevada is the only state that puts P&P with law enforcement. He and Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, both said they believe moving parole and probation functions to corrections would help develop more of a "counseling" and support role and less of a law enforcement approach in dealing with offenders.

There has been testimony before the Select Committee on Corrections, Parole and Probation, chaired by Parks, that Nevada's probation system is broken and that parole officers are overloaded with cases. There have also been allegations, he said after the hearing, that some parole officers make every effort possible to "violate" their offenders and send them to prison.

"I've not only heard that, I've seen it," he said. "If for any reason they can violate them, they do. That's not all of them but it's definitely a mindset of some of them."

Beers made similar comments after the hearing on Public Safety's budgets.

"It seems (P&P) aligns much more with corrections than with law enforcement," he said. "We need them to help these folks walk the straight and narrow, to get back to counseling these guys."

DPS Director Phil Galeoto said the issue is complicated because of the need for parole and probation officers to be both counselors and police.

He said P&P was put in Public Safety when the department was reorganized in the early 1990s and the model for its operation is set as a law enforcement model.

"The hiring and training is not based on P&P officers. It's based on the need for DPS officers who also work for the state Division of Investigations and the highway patrol."

Galeoto said while those officers work to help offenders become productive members of society, "at any moment, they may have to confront and arrest a dangerous individual."

He said that means they must be able to perform as law enforcement officers.

But he said it's a policy decision up to the Legislature and that his department will comply with what they choose.

The issue will be discussed in committee again after staff does some analysis of the financial implications of any change.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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