weather icon Light Rain

New program targets petty criminals

CARSON CITY — A Senate committee approved a court program Wednesday that would provide treatment and social services to petty criminals instead of jail time, although the bill creating it still awaits the scrutiny of a budget committee.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is sponsoring Senate Bill 349, which would set up the pilot program in Clark County allowing people with misdemeanors to avoid a criminal sentence if they successfully complete drug rehabilitation, job training or other self-improvement programs.

The bill “offers an alternative that changes the behavior of low-level offenders before they commit more serious crimes,” Horsford told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “More importantly, it helps them get their lives on track so crime is not a way of life.”

To participate in community court, a person would have to plead guilty to their misdemeanor charge and agree to a sentence that could be imposed if they failed to meet program requirements.

Then, the offender is evaluated to determine which support programs they need most. Services could include job training, drug rehab, literacy courses and affordable housing.

“These programs help eliminate the reasons for committing the crime in the first place,” said bill co-sponsor Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas.

The bill would require the offenders to pay for the cost of their treatment programs if they can afford it.

Community court is based on similar programs in Seattle, New York and San Francisco. It also resembles the Court Compliance Program already operating in Washoe County.

Orrin Johnson of the Washoe County public defender’s office said that program has a recidivism rate lower than 20 percent.

“These programs work,” he said.

SB349, which would cost $1 million to implement, was sent to the Senate Finance Committee for budget consideration.

The proposal comes during precarious financial times for specialty courts. The governor’s proposed budget shifts financial responsibility for the mental health court system — which offers treatment and accountability to low-level offenders diagnosed with a mental illness — from the state to strained county budgets.

Mental health court advocates pleaded last week for the program to be restored to the state budget. They said counties can’t afford the financial burden and the program would collapse without state support.

Proponents of SB349 framed the community court as an investment that would reduce costs by preventing prison time and reducing the number of crime victims.

“This isn’t about being soft,” said bill co-sponsor Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas. “This is about being smart.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - VIDEO
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - VIDEO
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Yucca Mountain bill in House faces steep climb

A House committee will consider a bill Tuesday that would proceed with development of the Yucca Mountain project, but it faces an uncertain future on the floor and in the Senate.