LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Wide-ranging criminal justice legislation that passed in 2019 has lawmakers cleaning up some details this year, and renewing the debate on making changes that make things easier on convicted criminals.
The Nevada Assembly Judiciary Committee conducted two bill hearings on Wednesday to understand proposals to change provisions in Assembly Bill 236, which made changes that put the state on the road to “data-driven policy decisions.”
Now, a few years under the new law have public defenders, probation and parole, and jail operators testifying about changes they need. AB32 and AB83 make changes to language that made it into law. Both bills remain in committee, where they are being worked on before going to a vote.
AB32 proposes changes to rules that apply in probation violations and parole violations — two very different conditions in the criminal justice system, explained Victoria Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Nevada Department of Sentencing Policy.
When offenders violate probation, they are evaluated and they go through steps that determine their punishment. They go to jail for 30 days for the first revocation, and 90 days on a second revocation. A third revocation means 180 days, and beyond that, they are serving the sentence that was initially suspended.
It’s a similar situation for parole violations, but the steps that must be followed take quite a bit longer. If fact, it usually takes 60-90 days, Gonzalez said.
Knowing that now, it makes more sense to change the rules for parole violations, which will go straight to 90 days for the first revocation under AB32, Gonzalez said. The revocation procedure for a probation violation won’t be changed.
John Piro, Chief Deputy Public Defender for Clark County, objected to a portion of the bill that would allow “flash incarceration” practices meant to streamline processing of offenders. He said that process shouldn’t bypass the public defender’s office.
The new legislation also lays out a detailed explanation of what constitutes a “technical” violation, and what more serious violations are — such as contacting their victim, or a sex offender hanging around a school.
More opposition came from representatives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, who wanted more information on how it would affect jails.
AB83 brings back a law that was “lost” in AB236.
AB83 authorizes release from parole if half the parole term has been served or, in the case of inmates with life sentences, 10 consecutive years of parole have been completed. Before this can happen, the Nevada Attorney General or the District Attorney with original jurisdiction in the case would have to approve, and a court date would be set.
This sparked reaction from Assemblyman Ken Gray (R-Douglas/Lyon County) and Toby Yurek (R-northeast Clark County). They pointed out that AB83 gives breaks to people who ought to be behind bars.
John Jones of the Nevada District Attorneys Association also spoke against AB83.
“Sentences are a reflection of how the trial judge or jury viewed the case at the time the case was heard. And they determined what they considered to be the most appropriate punishment. And I’ll note that case law is pretty clear that both the state and victims deserve finality in sentences. And that’s something that I cannot stress enough,” Jones said.
“We’re talking about murder cases, sex assaults, lewdness with a child,” Jones said. He reminded the committee of Marcy’s Law, which requires notification of victims, and pointed out that no provisions in the law mentioned notification.
Piro emphasized that AB83 does not require a prisoner’s release — it only allows an inmate to petition for release.