RAIN LEGISLATIVE ISSUES (5/15/07)
Need Immediate Attention & Action
416, AB 508 and AB 510 - all Addressing Current Conditions in the Prison System
After studying these issues, RAIN supports these three bills to improve the functioning, fairness and rationality of the Criminal Justice System in Nevada. It would also improve it's cost-effectiveness. Please contact the members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, as well as your own legislators, to urge them to pass these bills. These bills are in the Assembly Ways & Means Committee right now. If they pass there, they will be sent to the Assembly Floor, and then to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE:
The Religious Alliance of Nevada (RAIN) has supported the efforts of the Select Committee on Corrections, Parole, and Probation to begin a process of examining the policies and procedures that have resulted in overcrowded conditions in Nevada's prison system.
AB 416 would create a Policy Advisory Commission on Corrections to be informed on issues and developments relating to correctional institutions and to submit semiannual reports to the Governor and Legislative Commission on the status of correctional institutions in this State. This bill would also make more prisoners eligible for consideration to be placed in correctional programs run by the Division of Parole and Probation. Also included is a requirement that prisoners be provided with the reasons why they are denied parole; and the statistics on the number and percentage of the decisions concerning parole when prisoners are not released would be submitted to the Director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau at the beginning of each legislative session. Finally, AB 416 makes changes to the sentencing laws of Nevada, so that judges have some discretion to decide how much additional time to add to a sentence for aggravated circumstances in the commission of a crime rather than mandating the doubling of a sentence by statute before the facts of a particular case are known by either the judge or jury.
AB 508 reconstitutes the Advisory Commission on Sentencing created by NRS 176.0123 and would specifically mandate this Commission to review the current effectiveness of sentences for drug crimes, as well as the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department of Corrections, the State Board of Parole Commissioners, and specialty court programs with specific emphasis on whether such programs limit or preclude or promote the reentry of offenders and parolees into the community. With projected spending for the prison system over the next ten years estimated at $1.9 billion dollars, such a review is essential to help legislators understand whether the expenditure of such a large sum of money will be cost effective and necessary in promoting both security and social justice in this State.
Finally, SB 510 makes changes to the laws allowing prisoners to earn credits against time served, encouraging those offenders and parolees deemed suitable for residential confinement to be so treated as well as those being considered for participation in programs of reentry into the community.
RAIN has studied this issue extensively, and several papers approved by the RAIN Board were submitted for the record before the Select Committee on Corrections, Parole, and Probation. Attached is a summary statement from RAIN entitled: “A Dignified and Effective Transition from Prison to Society (A Statement of RAIN on Prisoner Re-Entry, February, 2007.”
The time has come to deal responsibly with the current situation in Nevada's prison system. As the attached Statement indicates, the judicatories of RAIN believe more focus is needed on the 97% of the people now in prison who will be released back into society. Will they be ready to reenter our communities without re-offending or will they continue to repeat their criminal behavior, thereby causing the budgets for both the criminal justice system and the State's prisons to escalate beyond all reasonable measure? RAIN supports the 3 bills noted above as a first step in getting a handle on this important matter.
RAIN represents YOU in the Legislature on Social Justice issues for our member churches and other civic organizations. But we need YOU to participate and contact your Legislators now. That is what makes RAIN's work effective. The Legislators respect RAIN's viewpoints because they know we are responsible, moderate, and have done our homework. But YOU are the BIG voice for RAIN. Please help us make your voice heard by emailing the Legislators on this issue TODAY.
Thank you, and God bless you. This work is putting the Gospel message into action in our State.
The Rev. Dr. Jane Foraker-Thompson
Justice Coordinator and Prison Ministries Rep
RAIN Board member