Las Vegas Sun

May 4, 2015

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Study suggests Nevada prisons do pretty good job of preventing recidivism

Felons released from Nevada prisons return in smaller percentages than in most other states, according to a new study.

Researchers found no relationship between the length of stay in a Nevada prison and an inmate’s success in staying out of trouble after being paroled.

The study, by the Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, showed 29.2 percent of paroled inmates ended up behind bars again within three years, either for violating parole terms or for committing another crime. It’s the 10th-lowest recidivism rate in the country, researchers told the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice on Monday.

Tracking 5,375 inmates released in 1999, the researchers found 13.9 percent were convicted of new crimes within three years. There was little difference in the recidivism rates of those who had served 18 to 24 months before being paroled (14.9 percent) and those who had served 36 to 60 months (14.1 percent).

Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty questioned whether longer sentences dissuade convicts from returning to a life of crime. Because longer sentences are more costly to taxpayers, he said, he wants the commission to examine how effective they are.

“What is the appropriate length of stay? We’ll look at that,” he said.

But Churchill County District Attorney Arthur Mallory said he would oppose any effort to shorten prison terms. The primary consideration in setting sentences is public safety, he said.

“Public safety should be in the forefront of our mind,” said Mallory, a member of the commission.

The district attorney said prisons in the states in which fewer inmates return might be tougher on inmates than prisons in places with higher rates of recidivism — such as California (53.4 percent), Alaska (66 percent) and Utah (64 percent).

“They may have pleasant prisons,” he said.

Arizona had the nation’s lowest rate of recidivism, at 24.5 percent.

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