Yeager: Amendments to Nevada Legislature bill cut projected prison savings | NevadaAppeal.com

Yeager: Amendments to Nevada Legislature bill cut projected prison savings

Ryan Tarinelli | Associated Press

A leading Nevada Democrat says to expect about a 16 percent drop in projected savings from an amended criminal justice reform bill that came after backroom negotiations involving prosecutors and law enforcement officials.

Assemblyman Steve Yeager said the amended legislation will still result in meaningful savings, but the changes to the bill are expected to cut projected savings in prison costs by $90 million over the next decade and bring the total savings figure to $550 million.

“I would hesitate to go any further (because) you’re really going to start cutting into the savings,” he said.

Yeager, who leads the Assembly Judiciary committee, said the legislation is still expected to curb Nevada’s growing prison population, but to a lesser degree than outlined in the original bill.

The amended version pushes back on a bid in the original bill to lessen jail time for crimes such as theft and ex-felons in possession of a weapon. Yeager said changes to penalties on drug crimes and automobile burglary also played a role in determining the new savings figure.

The original proposal aimed to ease the penalty for a first-time drug offense, classifying a possession charge as a misdemeanor in cases involving less than 14 grams of drugs. An amended version of the bill restores the penalty to a felony charge.

Prosecutors and law enforcement expressed concerns to drug penalties changes outlined in the original bill, Yeager said. “Keeping minor possession as a felony, I believe, is out of step with the rest of the country and the science behind substance use disorder,” he said.

Yeager said he received the new projected savings figure from the Crime and Justice Institute, which works with local, state, and national criminal justice organizations on reform efforts.

The sprawling reform bill is aimed at reducing the state’s growing prison population. A January legislative report said Nevada’s imprisonment rate is 15% higher than the national average.