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Half the money families send prisoners could go to victim restitution

Updated January 25, 2021 - 7:06 pm

CARSON CITY — State officials on Monday unanimously directed the Department of Corrections to draft a new regulation that would allow up to half of the money families send to some prisoners to be garnished and applied to restitution to comply with a victims’ bill of rights law.

The state Board of Prison Commissioners, made up of Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, will need to approve the drafted regulation at its next meeting.

The direction comes after the board last October voted to suspend a temporary policy put in place by Corrections Department Director Charles Daniels that allowed officials to take up to 80 percent of money that inmates received for restitution, a policy that received significant pushback from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

The lower deductions cap “is still too much,” ACLU of Nevada Policy Director Holly Welborn said in an interview.

“But for now, it’s a lot better and more palatable for families at that 50 percent level,” she added.

Corrections department staff pointed to the adoption of Marsy’s Law as an amendment to the state constitution in 2018 as reasoning behind the need to garnish that money from some inmates.

The law is meant to provide rights for crime victims, including the right to “full and timely restitution.” The department said that roughly 16 percent of its 11,000 inmates would be affected by the new regulation.

Families are able to deposit money into accounts that inmates can use to buy essential items like hygiene products.

While the lower deductions cap does give some relief to those inmates, Welborn said it will still be very punitive going forward, especially for those whose families can only offer smaller amounts.

Welborn said that they’ll likely look into changing the laws in the upcoming Legislature to limit the director’s authority to garnish inmates’ accounts.

Ford said during the meeting that he believes that the 50 percent rate still complies with Marsy’s Law, and that there is some precedent of other states, like California, using that same rate.

But Ford added that he believes there is “a reasonable debate” about Marsy’s Law and whether the state should be garnishing money that families send to incarcerated people.

A previous version of this story stated that the board approved the regulation.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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