Permanent Nevada Sentencing Commission proposed |

Permanent Nevada Sentencing Commission proposed

The commission created to look into issues surrounding criminal sentencing in Nevada would become a permanent, independent body to analyze and oversee sentencing and other criminal justice issues under a plan approved Wednesday.

The multi-member body headed by Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty voted to seek legislation that would expand its role to collect and analyze data from the courts, corrections, parole and other criminal justice agencies. It would analyze proposed legislation and policies to determine their impact in a wide ranging area from cost to impact on society. The Sentencing Commission would then report to the governor and lawmakers with recommendations.

Hardesty said the commission would assume the role of providing advice to lawmakers.

The commission also voted to send a letter to the governor and legislature supporting additional funding for the Division of Records, Communications and Compliance — the criminal history repository — and another letter calling on them to double the state’s funding for specialty courts from $3 million to $6 million a year.

Mindy McKay, records bureau chief, said it’s critical they modernize and replace the state’s criminal justice information system which she said could cost more than $55 million.

She said the system can’t continue to rely on the shrinking amount of money from administrative assessments from traffic tickets and other misdemeanors because that funding source just isn’t sufficient and federal grants aren’t long term or sustainable.

In addition, she pointed out many of the agencies that access the records for everything from background checks to criminal history searches don’t pay an access or transaction fee.

McKay said to properly do the job, the division needs to add staff. She said they get about 350 added sex offenders each year which requires an added person each year to track them.

Hardesty said he believes funding to support the needs of the system must come from the general fund.

In the last biennium, the specialty courts received a budget of $3 million annually to support their growing caseload. The commission voted to ask that amount be doubled, arguing that’s still not enough to handle the specialty courts that handle addicts, veterans with problems, mental health cases and a variety of other issues, effectively keeping those defendants out of prison and jail by treating them.

Hardesty said the need is there and pointed out Oregon recently increased its specialty court funding from $15 million to $40 million.

The recommendations will be presented to the Legislature and governor’s office for consideration.