Prison chief: Mandate requires funds

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s prison director said Tuesday he’ll seek emergency funding to meet a new legislative mandate that sex offenders register with local authorities and provide DNA samples before they’re released at the end of their sentences.

Corrections Director Howard Skolnik told the state Prison Board that first-year costs of the change in tracking the convicts will be about $500,000, for equipment and four new staffers, followed by costs of about $333,000 a year after that.

Under Senate Bill 471, approved last year by lawmakers, sex offenders as of July 1 must register with local police agencies before being released from prison. Under the old law, they had to register within two days after their release with authorities where they planned to live.

The point of the new law is to make sure that sex offenders don’t “get out and disappear, drop off the radar if they so choose,” Skolnik said. But he added the prerelease registration requirement in SB471 resulted in a “pretty significant unintended consequence.”

To comply with the law, local authorities would have had to come into prisons to get the registration information. Skolnik told the Prison Board, chaired by Gov. Jim Gibbons, that it’s simpler for prison staffers to do the work and then turn the information over to outside authorities.

The funding request will go to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee. Skolnik said up to 40 percent of the state’s prison inmates are sex offenders, and he’s certain that several hundred convicts will have to go through the prerelease registration process every year.

Skolnik also said a pending legislative audit should back up his argument that Nevada prison inmates get adequate medical care — despite a claim by the American Civil Liberties Union that such care is “grossly inadequate” at the state’s maximum-security Ely State Prison.

Skolnik told the Prison Board that he expects the auditors to find that the medical care provided to inmates in Nevada is equal to or better than the care provided in other states reviewed as part of the audit.

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