Pardons board to look at reducing prison overcrowding | NevadaAppeal.com
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Pardons board to look at reducing prison overcrowding

The Nevada Pardons Board has decided to look at an idea that could get large numbers of inmates out of the state’s prisons.

Supreme court Justice Jim Hardesty proposed the two-prong plan aimed at non-violent offenders both legally in the U.S. and illegals.

He told the board consisting of the Supreme Court, attorney general and governor the idea would be to identify first offenders with no history of violence who are within 24 months of completing their minimum prison sentence.

Illegal aliens in that group, he said, could be pardoned and turned over to the federal immigration agency for deportation.

He also asked prisons director Howard Skolnik to identify inmates legally in the U.S. who fit those qualifications saying it would be much cheaper for the state to pardon them to alternative programs if those programs can be developed.

Skolnik said he could get raw numbers of inmates fitting  those descriptions within a day or so but that it would take time to review their files to see who actually qualifies as a good candidate for release.

Hardesty agreed all would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. And he said all the pardons would be conditional. If any of the illegals returned to the U.S., especially if they commit a new offense, the old prison sentence would be reinstated.

And any American citizens released under that kind of program would face the same conditions if they committed a new crime.

He said such programs would potentially release large numbers of inmates either to deportation or alternative programs. He pointed out that 48 percent of inmates in the Nevada prison system are on their first offense. And he said there are 1,730 inmates wanted by immigration authorities for deportation.

Justice Michael Cherry said he would like to see how many inmates are in that group at 36 months and 48 months remaining on their sentences as well as 24 months. He said the cost of probation or alternative programs for those inmates “has got to be much cheaper than prison.”

The other members of the board agreed, asking Skolnik to begin putting together the information. They also agreed the challenge will be finding enough alternative programs to put inmates in.

Overcrowding is forcing the state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on prison construction. The prison population is at more than 13,000 currently.

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