Panel proposes easing credit rules for non-violent felons |

Panel proposes easing credit rules for non-violent felons

The Commission on the Administration of Justice on Friday approved a slate of recommendations for the 2011 Legislature to consider, including a law change designed to get some felons out of prison faster.

The plan would allow non-violent category B felons to earn good time credits against their minimum sentence, which is already allowed for those convicted of lesser crimes. At present, B felons can only earn credits against their maximum sentences.

Category B felonies range from treason, voluntary manslaughter, child

pornography and advocating the violent overthrow of government to illegal gaming, embezzlement of more than $2,500 and illegally filling prescriptions through Internet pharmacies. There are more than 160 of them in Nevada law.

Prison officials say nearly two-thirds of Nevada’s inmates are in prison for a Category B felony and that allowing the credits for non-violent convictions would help reduce the prison population.

The proposed law would not apply to B felonies that involve the use or threat of any force or violence, sex offenses or felony DUI convictions.

The commission chaired by Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, rejected a recommendation to mandate DNA testing for everyone arrested on felony charges.

The legislation was requested by the mother of Brianna Denison, a college student who was abducted and murdered in January 2008. James Biela, the man convicted of the rape and murder, had been implicated in at least one previous sexual assault. He has been sentenced to death.

Twenty-one states and the federal government already require DNA testing after someone is arrested on felony charges.

The commission was asked to support a law that would require the defense get every piece of evidence the prosecution has in felony cases at the same time as the prosecution. Inmate advocate Tonya Brown said that would “level the playing field” and protect the accused from prosecutors who withhold evidence in criminal cases.

Brown maintains that is what happened to her brother Nolan Klein, who was convicted of sexual assault and remained in prison until his death a year ago.

She has an evidentiary hearing before Washoe District Judge Pat Flannigan next week on allegations the Washoe DA’s office withheld evidence that could have cleared her brother of the charges.

The commission took no action on her request, which she said leaves her no choice but to report the situation to the U.S. Justice Department.

Another proposal approved by the commission would centralize the collection of fines, administrative fees and restitution. Justice Jim Hardesty, a member of the commission, said many times, money isn’t collected because there is no single entity assigned to collect the funds owed by those convicted of a crime or misdemeanor.

Another legislative proposal on the commission’s list would prohibit a court from ordering a victim or witness to submit to psychological or psychiatric testing in a criminal sex case without consent and allow the judge to exclude that type of evidence absent a compelling need.

The proposals will be drafted and submitted to the Assembly and Senate Judiciary committees once the 2011 Legislature convenes.