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Halfway house program could help Nevada inmates re-enter society

Updated April 13, 2017 - 8:24 pm

CARSON CITY — Nevada inmates who have been granted parole but are not eligible for release may have an option besides being behind bars.

Assembly Bill 421, heard Thursday in the Assembly Corrections, Parole and Probation Committee, would allow inmates in that category to qualify for residential confinement programs. The measure would help provide a transitional period for inmates before they are eligible for release on parole, said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas.

“Residential placement would allow us in the state to be able to put offenders out there that normally would have been put out our back door with a good luck pat on the back,” Nevada Department of Corrections Director James Dzurenda told the committee.

The bill has the support of public defender’s officers in Clark and Washoe counties.

“Anything that can help reentry, we are in full support of,” said John Piro of the Clark County public defender’s office.

Mental health care

The bill also would require that psychiatric and mental health care in locally run jails in Clark County be provided by the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Under an amendment to the bill, the county would reimburse the state division for the care.

Ohrenschall said this amendment is intended to help provide a continuity of care for inmates who are mentally ill and need treatment. For example, if someone is discharged from one jail and booked in another, the state division would be aware of that person’s medical history.

Representatives of the Metropolitan Police Department, which runs the Clark County Detention Center, opposed that part of the bill.

“We’re not convinced that the state can do a better job of providing mental health treatment to the folks in our facility,” said Chuck Callaway of the Metro.

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

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