Parole Board back to full strength, faces more than 1,600 February hearings

Effective Monday, Nevada's Parole Board will be back to full strength.

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Thursday announced appointments to fill the two vacant positions on the seven-member board. Chairman Dorla Salling said once the two new members are up to speed, that should significantly increase the number of inmate hearings the board can hold each month.

The two new members are both lifelong Nevadans with extensive experience in law enforcement and the judicial system.

Susan Jacobsen-Jackson comes to the board from the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. She has been an agent with the Gaming Control Board, an investigator with the attorney general's office and a detective sergeant with the Nevada Division of Investigation.

Mary Baker has been a pre-trial services officer with the U.S. District Court for 12 years, serving as a drug and alcohol treatment specialist as well as program development coordinator and as the officer in charge.

Parole Board management analyst David Smith said the two replace Tom Goodson who retired in December and Mary Vieth who transferred to a job at Lakes Crossing.

He said Baker has already completed her 40-hour orientation and training session. Jackson will begin that training Monday.

The board has a large backlog of hearings because of legislation passed in 2007 designed to get more inmates out of Nevada's overcrowded prison system.

That made more than 10 percent of Nevada's prison population eligible for hearings and release.

The Legislature also passed legislation that declared parole hearings open meetings and mandated inmates be allowed to attend their hearings. That more than tripled the amount of time needed for each hearing.

The result, some 1,600 inmates are eligible for a parole hearing in February - far more than the board can possibly hear. Smith said the board normally holds about 700 hearings a month.

"Most of this is a result of the extra credits from AB510," he said referring to legislation that retroactively doubled good-time credits earned by inmates.

Salling has told lawmakers it will take months to work through that backlog and catch up.

To make more hearings possible, video conferencing equipment is being installed in all Nevada prisons and camps.

The board hears inmate cases in panels of two or three commissioners depending on the offense involved. Those panels make recommendations to the full board, which rules on each case. It takes a majority of the full board - four votes - for an inmate to get out of prison.

The other members of the board are Salling, Tami Bass, Maurice Silva and Michael Keeler.

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

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