Lawmakers kill plan to move Parole into Department of Corrections
Lawmakers on Saturday rejected the governor’s plan to transfer Parole functions to the Department of Corrections.
Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said earlier that Corrections officials weren’t able to justify the move, “and it costs us money.”
Rejecting the plan moves $17.25 million out of the recommended prison system budget and back to Public Safety, where the division has been combined with Probation for some 20 years.
The proposed change was aimed at creating a more seamless process of moving inmates out of prison and back into society, Corrections Director Greg Cox said. There has been little communication in recent years between the caseworkers who handle inmates in institutions and the parole officers who take over their cases once released, Cox said. Moving parole into Corrections would fix that, he said.
Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said during the hearing on the plan that it hasn’t been well-explained.
Parole was moved out of Corrections years ago, she said.
Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, and Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, questioned whether all the costs involved had been thought through, given that Probation would remain within Public Safety. They argued the effect would be to create two agencies instead of one.
The Nevada State Law Enforcement Officers Association also objected, saying California made that change and it resulted in probation cases being “dumped” on the counties.
As a result of Saturday’s action, the 105 Parole division positions will remain at Parole and Probation instead of moving to Corrections.
The decision accounts for a large share of the $27.6 million legislative reduction in funding for the prison system. The rest of the reduction is primarily the result of updated inmate population projections that cut the average total by more than 100 over the biennium.
The state also got a break in May, when lawmakers were informed the 9th District Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of the Department of Corrections replacing the expensive kosher diet with its “common-fare diet.” That cuts the cost of feeding the 138 inmates who had kosher diets by $384,323 each year.
Corrections saved an additional $7.9 million over the biennium by reducing estimated medical expenditures for inmates that would be paid instead by Medicaid because of expanded eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Those reductions, however, were partly offset by inflationary and other increases in other parts of the prison system budget.