Nevada Fails Its Parolees, ACLU Says

     LAS VEGAS (CN) – Nevada’s support services for parolees are so poor that one out of five parole-eligible prisoners chooses to stay in prison, the ACLU said in a recent report.
     Forty-three of the 68 prisoners the ACLU of Nevada surveyed said they received little or no help from the Nevada Department of Parole and Probation or the Department of Corrections when preparing for their parole hearings or eventual release.
     The ACLU sent its survey to 75 inmates who were eligible for parole but had not been released.
     Twenty percent of the inmates who responded said they refused parole, all of them citing difficulties creating a plan for parole as the reason.
     Largely due to this lack of support, many prisoners in Nevada stay behind bars longer than necessary, and at greater expense to taxpayers, the ACLU said in its May 21 report, “Stuck Behind Bars: Exploring Reasons Why Parole-Eligible Inmates in Nevada Remain Incarcerated.”
     The ACLU of Nevada said it did the study because it was “troubled by the high rate of inmates refusing parole.”
     Gov. Brian Sandoval disagreed with the conclusions of the ACLU report.
     “There are folks who don’t want to be released,” Sandoval told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “There are folks who can’t put together or don’t have the ability to put together an appropriate plan for their release.”
     The newspaper said in its May 30 article that its own study “found inmates are often granted parole but not released due to a process that keeps poor prisoners behind bars at a cost to taxpayers of some $4 million a year.”
     It costs Nevada taxpayers $20,238 to keep one inmate in prison for a year, according to the ACLU report, which found that the inmates surveyed went through an average of 3.32 parole hearings before leaving prison.
     Sandoval said there are many aspects to the problem.
     “There are some who have committed offenses, sex offenders and such, where you have to be careful about their release plan,” he told the Review-Journal.
     The ACLU report, however, suggests the problem mostly is due to lack of guidance.
     The Department of Parole and Probation has re-entry coordinators who conduct orientation programs for inmates and assign caseworkers to help them get ready for parole. But more than 60 percent of responding inmates said they never met their re-entry coordinator and 30 percent said they never met with their caseworkers. “Inmates who are eligible and want to participate in parole are often denied this opportunity because of a lack of resources and guidance,” said Amy Rose, legal director of the ACLU Nevada. “The state is both failing the prisoner population and wasting taxpayer money by paying to house inmates for longer than necessary.”
     Rose said the state is not “providing the necessary resources for inmates to properly prepare for the transition to life outside of prison.”
     The state says it provides monthly informational seminars at each prison to help prisoners prepare for paroles. But the inmates polled said they were not aware of any such seminars.
     Another obstacle is the cost of living. More than 80 percent of inmates surveyed said they would face difficulty securing housing if paroled and would have a hard time paying for it.
     Many parolees must make a “substantial payment” for housing before being released, which makes it impossible for them to accept parole, according to the report.
     Grants are available to help secure housing, but only 13 percent of inmates said they were aware of it. And even when they do get funding, inmates still have trouble finding rooms.
     Three hundred inmates are eligible for parole each month but the state had only 989 beds on its “approved housing list,” of which 148 are for women or children only. And only half of the “housing options” will accept sex offenders, according to the ACLU report.
     One inmate said he could not accept parole because the only place he could live was with his family, but his grandfather being a registered gun owner and his mother’s husband was on probation.
     Parolees are less likely to be reincarcerated than prisoners who serve their full sentence, the report says, citing a 2012 report from Justice Quarterly.
     Yet in May 2014, of 357 Nevada inmates eligible for parole, 321 could not be released for one reason or another, according to the ACLU.
     In short, the ACLU says, Nevada has failed to “properly transition inmates to life after incarceration. Only after this occurs can taxpayers trust that their money is being spent wisely and not wasted and that the inmates subjected to this broken system can move on with their lives after having paid their debt to society.”
     Almost 13,000 people are in Nevada prisons, most of whom will eventually return to society.
     The Department of Parole and Probation did not respond to requests for comment.

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