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Early parole bill revived, approved after lawmaker switches vote

Updated Monday, May 30, 2011 | 8:35 p.m.

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Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas

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CARSON CITY – Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, provided the key vote in defeating a bill Monday to allow a felon to complete educational courses in order to apply earlier for parole.

But hours later, Lee changed his mind after initially joining with Republicans 11-10 to kill the bill. The Senate then voted 11-10 to approve Assembly Bill 136.

“I should have studied it closer,” Lee said, adding that he talked with representatives from the state attorney general’s office and learned the bill doesn't allow prison inmates out early.

The bill permits a prisoner to apply to the state Board of Parole Commissioners earlier.

But Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the public, victims and even the judge wouldn't know how long a convicted person would serve with the proposed educational credits. Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, said inmates, when they are released, often commit new crimes. "It’s bad policy," he said of the bill.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said the state has a significant budget problem and Nevada spends more money per-capita on prison programs than most other states. Inmates in Nevada also serve longer sentences than in many other states, he argued.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said the Legislature several sessions ago enhanced criminal sentences. “We were tough on crime” and Nevada has a higher incarceration rate than other states, he said.

"We are paying dearly for this," he said.

Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, said the bill wouldn't permit the educational credits to be applied to a person who used a gun in a crime, who committed a sexual offense or is a habitual prisoner.

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