Nevada prisoners more violent |

Nevada prisoners more violent

Nevada’s prison population is growing and becoming more violent, according to Jackie Crawford, director of the Nevada Department of Corrections.

She said the population is becoming more dangerous, and the number of juveniles and seniors in the system is growing.

An increasing percentage of Nevada inmates are dangerous and violent criminals, Crawford said, because of the emphasis on diverting people with substance abuse problems and other nonviolent offenders to counseling and other programs.

The biggest demographic change, however, is in the number of juveniles in prison. Crawford said just a few years ago, there were only about five inmates in the 14- to 15-year-old range. Increasing gang violence and laws allowing teens to be certified and tried as adults have changed that.

“I now have 20 to 25 youth gang members at High Desert – 14- and 15-year-olds,” she said. “We have almost 700 under the age of 22, and that number is climbing.”

Crawford said many of those juveniles are in for major crimes, including murder.

She said she will ask lawmakers for more staff to handle juvenile inmates to protect them from other inmates and protect her staff from unpredictably violent teens.

In response to questions from Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Reno, she also said those youths have “a high percentage of black and Latinos.”

“We’re getting more and more of them because of the gang activity on the street (in Las Vegas),” she said.

She said teens may be violent criminals, but in other ways are still just juveniles who need a high school education and job skills. She said many of them need much more basic help.

“They lack all social skills,” she said. “They haven’t had any upbringing.”

At the other end of the scale, Crawford said the average age of Nevada’s 10,000 prison inmates is rising because of the number of hardened, violent criminals serving long sentences.

She said the average age is now just under 35, but that 921 inmates are in their 50s, 270 in their 60s, 56 in their 70s and 10 in their 80s. She predicted those numbers will all increase.

The data was presented during a hearing on the state of the criminal justice system in rural Nevada.