Late amendment puts off any early release of inmates

CARSON CITY — A last-minute amendment to legislation designed to ease Nevada prison overcrowding will prevent the early release of any current inmates, state prison officials said.

In its original form, AB510 would have doubled the good-time credits that inmates can receive retroactively to 1997, a move that officials said would have allowed the immediate release of about 1,600 inmates.

The amended version passed out of the Assembly Select Committee on Corrections, Parole and Probation on Thursday night retains the provision doubling the good-time credits but delays the effective date to July 2008.

“It’s no longer retroactive,” Deputy Director of Corrections Fritz Schlottman told the Nevada Appeal. “Nothing would take place as far as changing credits for inmates until after that date. An offender would have to be sentenced after that date” to be affected.

Inmates can receive up to 10 days’ credit off their maximum sentences each month for good conduct as well as for completing educational and other programs.

AB510 would double credits to a maximum of 20 days per month. It also increases the credits inmates earn for completing educational programs.

The only inmates not eligible for the credits are those serving life sentences without parole or facing execution.

Prison officials estimate that the bill in its original form would have reduced prison population projections by more than 3,800 and saved the state $1.9 billion in prison construction costs over the next decade.

But removal of the retroactive date means no savings on construction or operational costs, Schlottman said.

Law enforcement officials hailed the committee’s action, saying it would keep inmates behind bars where they belong.

Ray Flynn of the Metropolitan Police Department said the original bill would have “dumped 3,000 felons into our communities.”

Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick said that the 1997 Legislature’s stiffening of criminal penalties has worked and that the original bill would have “put the people of the state of Nevada at risk.”

“We’ve got bad guys in prison, and they need to be there,” Gammick said.

Under the lawmakers’ rules, Friday was the last day of the session for all Assembly and Senate committees to vote on any measures that have not yet been acted upon.

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