New prison rules won’t mean immediate release of inmates | NevadaAppeal.com
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New prison rules won’t mean immediate release of inmates

Prison officials say the changes in good-time credits for inmates won’t immediately release large numbers of inmates into Nevada cities and towns.

Deputy Director for Offender Management Fritz Schlottman said the immediate impact of the new rules will be to make more inmates eligible for parole hearings. In order to get out, they will still have to convince the parole board they aren’t a danger to society.

He made the statements in response to inmates and family members thinking they would get immediately released and concerned residents and law enforcement worried that would be the result.

Schlottman said, however, the new law will expire the sentences of a number of inmates currently on parole, freeing them from supervision.

The rule changes for awarding good-time credits were contained in AB510, which was approved by the 2007 Legislature as one means of reducing prison overcrowding. The new law doubles the amount of good-time credits an inmate can earn to 20 days per month. It also doubles the credits earned for such things as completing a drug rehabilitation programs or earning a general education diploma.

But there are two key provisions that officials say will reduce the prison population over the coming year. First, the new rules apply retroactively to July 2000 for inmates who meet the criteria and to July 2006 for those inmates already on parole. So an inmate who completed a degree or program in the past seven years and who has had good conduct through that time will get the added credits.

Second, for nonviolent offenders the credits apply to the minimum sentence the inmate has to serve before becoming eligible for parole.

For those convicted of felony violence, sex offenses, driving under the influence or any Category A or B felony – the most serious crimes – the credits don’t reduce minimum sentences, so those inmates won’t be able to get out any earlier. But they do apply the credits to maximum sentences for those inmates.

Schlottman testified during legislative hearings on the changes the idea is to get nonviolent inmates who are no longer considered a danger to society out of the prison system faster and to divert more inmates to alternative programs such as drug court and residential confinement.

He said over time, the changes should have a significant impact on the prison population.

As of this week, there were more than 13,000 inmates in Nevada’s prison system, well above what prison officials expected when the Legislature began in February.

As a result, some program areas, including gymnasiums, at Nevada’s institutions have been converted into inmate living quarters.

The worst overcrowding is in the women’s institutions, which are at their maximum capacity, forcing prison officials to house some of them in a wing of a Southern Nevada men’s prison.

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