Pardons board change could reduce Nevada prison population


CARSON CITY — Nevada lawmakers are considering an overhaul to the state’s board that grants pardons to offenders.

State Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, wants to replace the State Board of Pardons Commissioners with a Clemency Board. Senate Joint Resolution 1 involves more than a name change — it would alter the board’s membership and require it to meet more often.

Current pardons board members are the governor, the seven Nevada Supreme Court justices and the attorney general. SJR1 would change the state constitution so that the governor, supreme court chief justice and attorney general would each appoint three members on the nine-person panel.

Given the busy schedules of the officials on the pardons board, Parks said, it’s difficult for them all to meet often. SRJ1 would require the Clemency Board to meet at least four times a year.

“It’s my understanding that the Pardons Board only meets twice a year,” Parks told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The Clemency Board would have “professionals and laypeople who will deal with the criminal justice system and meet on a more frequent schedule,” Parks said.

Parks said a board that meets more often to review cases would help Nevada reduce its incarcerated population.

“This clemency board would have more freedom to meet,” said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, another sponsor of SJR1.

The process would amend the state’s constitution, so it’s not an issue that lawmakers can change quickly.

SJR1 would need to pass the Legislature this session, and in the 2019 session. It would then go to voters for final approval in 2020. A similar measure passed in 2009 but failed during the 2011 session.

Others spoke in support of the change Tuesday, including representatives of the ACLU of Nevada and the Clark County Public Defender’s office.

The board does more than just grant pardons. It also can commute sentences and hear cases from convicts in other circumstances, such as those trying to expunge their record.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.