Prison handing illegal aliens over to federal authority |

Prison handing illegal aliens over to federal authority

Nevada has turned 77 prison inmates over to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Deputy Director for Operations Fritz Schlottman said the inmates are being released to federal custody for deportation in an effort to reduce Nevada’s prison overcrowding.

Those inmates are illegal aliens convicted of being drug mules or for nonviolent crimes such as burglary. Any illegals in the system convicted of serious, violent crimes will remain in prison.

Schlottman said it will be the Department of Corrections’ policy from now on to turn illegal aliens convicted of lesser crimes over to federal authorities “on an ongoing basis.”

“We’ll have another dump this week,” he said.

Schlottman said those imprisoned in the Las Vegas area go to INS in Arizona. Those in northern institutions are taken to Sacramento.

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He said over time the practice should make a substantial difference in the prison population since there are about 1,000 illegal aliens in the system at any given time – an average of 9 percent of the total population.

That’s important because of the serious overcrowding in the prison system. With more than 13,000 inmates, the system already has more prisoners than it has beds, forcing wardens to convert gymnasiums and other areas into bed space.

The idea of releasing illegals to federal authorities came up during the 2007 Legislature, suggested by Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty. To get them out of the prison system, they are first pardoned then paroled by Nevada.

Gov. Jim Gibbons backed the plan on one condition: “My goal is we never see them back here again. If we find them back in our judicial system, they should not be privileged to have their minimum sentence commuted again. It’s one strike and you’re out.”

Dorla Salling, chairwoman of the Parole Board, said any inmates who return to the U.S. would be prosecuted at the federal level and, so, shouldn’t become the state’s problem again.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.