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Ford plan would educate soon-to-be released Nevada inmates

Citing the goal of reducing recidivism and saving money, Sen. Majority Leader Aaron Ford introduced a bill this week that would catapult the College of Southern Nevada back into the business of educating offenders.

The Las Vegas Democrat said Senate Bill 306 is a “small piece” of his larger goal during this session of the Nevada Legislature to implement “broad and meaningful” criminal justice reform.

“I say small, but for those who will directly benefit, this legislation may very well be life changing,” Ford said.

The bill would create a pilot program to jump-start the education of 50 men and 50 women who will soon be released from state prisons.

It’s familiar territory for CSN, which, until the Great Recession sapped funding, provided training programs at a number of prisons throughout Nevada.

“We feel that now we can go back to this program in a more systematic way,” said CSN President Michael Richards. “Rather than offering random courses in the facilities, we would like to offer more systematic programs that lead to a credential. So that as folks come back into society, they’ve got some basic skills that can help them.”

From 2004 to 2008, the program served more than 2,000 individuals — some of whom had life sentences — and graduated 27 of them, said Bradford Glover, CSN career services director.

“There was nothing post-release,” Glover said. “There was follow-up and we gave them information, but nothing was formalized.”

The new program, however, will target offenders who are no more than a year from being released. Students will choose either an academic or vocational track, Glover said.

“If they choose college readiness, we’ll work with them post-release and get them right off into CSN,” he said. “If they choose vocational, they’ll go into an apprenticeship program after release.”

Making it work

The program would cost $300,000 and run from July 1 through June 30, 2021. Ford said the money would come from the state’s general fund, and anything left over after 2021 would be returned.

The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation and other local agencies also would provide counseling for offenders on how to successfully reenter society.

“If the overall goal of Nevada is to reduce recidivism and to increase options for sustainable employment, then education and skills training must be included as an option for men and women prior to their reintegration back into society,” said Jon Ponder, founder and CEO of Hope for Prisoners. “Successful reentry that is progressive and sustainable is dependent upon the basic needs of individuals being met.”

No one spoke against the measure when it was introduced on Tuesday.

Contact Natalie Bruzda at nbruzda@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3897. Follow @NatalieBruzda on Twitter.

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