Las Vegas Sun

July 27, 2015

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Lawmakers skeptical of plan to merge Nevada parole division, prison system

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal to merge Nevada’s parole division with the prison system got a rugged reception Tuesday from legislators who said they didn’t see any savings or improved services for inmates.

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said she was “a little bit skeptical” and complained she was not getting enough answers from Greg Cox, the director of the state Department of Corrections.

Cox testified to a joint Assembly-Senate budget subcommittee that there is a “disconnect” between the state Parole and Probation Division and the prison system.

Parole officers don’t come to the prison to prepare inmates for release, Cox said. The goal is to ready prisoners for their return to society so they don’t become repeat offenders.

But subcommittee Chairman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said the Parole and Probation Division already has a release unit. “I’m trying to understand how this improves that,” he said. “It sounds to me the services are already in place.”

Kirkpatrick questioned whether Cox would return later and ask for more officers. He said he would not and that the realignment is cost neutral.

But Kirkpatrick said the realignment “needs a lot more work.”

Cox defended the merger, saying Nevada is one of a few states not providing services to ready inmates for return to the streets.

Sandoval’s proposal also ran into stiff opposition from the Nevada State Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, which said the plan “has very significant costs, a lack of any proven efficiencies and major public safety issues.”

President Ron Cuzze said the merger would open the door for future governors to turn over probation functions to the counties.

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