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August 1, 2014

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Law enforcement union opposes proposal to shift parole to Department of Corrections

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The Legislative Building is seen at the end of the first day of the 2013 legislative session Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 in Carson City.

Law enforcement officers are sounding alarms about Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal to shift state parole functions to the state Department of Corrections.

The Nevada State Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, which represents parole officers, calls it a “fox in the charge of the henhouse” situation in which corrections would control both the entrance and exit to state prisons, an argument the organization plans to make before a legislative committee considering the proposal this morning.

“The state runs the risk of having one individual or small group who can artificially keep prison numbers down by releasing inmates to parole at will, and bypassing all common-sense controls,” wrote the law enforcement association, which represents parole officers, in a briefing addressed to legislators.

Sandoval proposed shifting parole from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Corrections. His budget describes it as a way “to provide an integrated continuum of care for inmates as they transition from the institution to the community.”

In a July 13, 2012, memo, corrections director Greg Cox wrote that the shift would allow corrections to move “inmates to less expensive transitional housing facilities rather than prison.”

Cox said roughly 400 inmates are still being housed in state prisons despite being past their parole eligibility date because “they do not have an approved parole plan.” Moving 50 inmates who are past their parole eligibility date to transitional housing would save $138,420 per year, the document states.

Under the consolidation plan, newly hired parole officers would be paid less.

The state’s parole board, which the governor appoints, would continue to independently review cases.

Ron Cuzze, director of the Nevada State Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, called the cost savings a “smoke and mirrors” game.

“This is something every Nevada taxpayer needs to watch,” Cuzze said.

Legislators have studied the issue in past legislative sessions.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said nothing will change this year.

“It’s not going to happen,” he said. “It creates two bureaucracies.”

The proposal would split the state division of parole and probation, keeping probation functions under public safety and moving parole to corrections.

“We believe shifting parole to corrections, recommended by both corrections and the Department of Public Safety, ensures continuity of custody and supervision of offenders that will allow for more effective allocation of officers who supervise prisoners,” said Mary-Sarah Kinner, spokeswoman for the governor. “This should reduce recidivism over time.”

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