Lack of parole officers jeopardizes public safety in Nevada, Raggio says

CARSON CITY — Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said Wednesday that the state is jeopardizing the safety of the public by failing to properly supervise parolees.

He contended there is no way parolees are being properly supervised when only three officers oversee 1,695 parolees under a special administrative program.

The parolees they monitor are those who were convicted of gross misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses.

Other parole officers are expected to have caseloads of 70 parolees. Those who supervise sex offenders are supposed to have caseloads of 45 parolees. Those goals, however, are not being met because of a shortage of officers.

During the first meeting of the Legislature’s Committee For the Fundamental Review of the Base Budgets of State Agencies, a legislative analyst reported the Parole and Probation Division has 173 officers, 45 fewer than the agency was authorized to hire.

“I am concerned,” Raggio said. “We have never adequately funded this agency. It is a vital area of public safety.”

But Bernie Curtis, chief of the Parole and Probation Division, did not attend the hearing. Gov. Jim Gibbons ordered state agencies not to participate in the hearing on the grounds that, legally, the Legislature can review state agency budgets only during its 120-day biennial sessions. The next session is in February.

Curtis also declined to speak to a reporter about concerns posed by Raggio.

But Lynn Hettrick, Gibbons’ chief of staff, said legislators already know why additional officers have not been hired. They authorized hiring the additional officers, but there is no money to do so because of budget reductions imposed on the agency by legislators and the governor, he said.

In other business, legislators praised the work of the Division of Housing’s building lease program. The division leases private buildings in which some state agencies are housed.

An analyst found that rental rates charged state agencies are 23 cents per square foot cheaper than rates for private businesses.

Chairwoman and Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, began by stressing the importance for legislators to look at state spending now. Legislative leaders anticipate a revenue shortfall of $3 billion by the time the 2011 session begins.

“Like Nevada families, we must do more with less,” she said. “The days are over when state agencies can expect automatic increases from this Legislature.”

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