Officials: Lack of funding to reduce Nevada prison parole numbers
Prison Director James Dzurenda said Thursday, Dec. 7, the decision to withhold most funding for a program designed to get outgoing inmates a legal and “verified” ID will sharply reduce the number eligible for parole over the next two months.
The legislative Interim Finance Committee refused to support the addition of five permanent and two contract staffers to perform the necessary background checks to determine whether the offender up for release is actually who he or she claims to be.
Dzurenda said a 2017 state law prohibits the prison system from providing inmates with the Department of Prisons ID card they’ve always used in the past. Instead, he said they must provide a “verified” ID and only 20 percent of less of the 14,000 inmates currently have documents such as a birth certificate to qualify for that form of ID. While it might be simple to get a birth certificate or other proof of identity for some, he said it will take a lot of work in other cases.
He requested $234,372 to hire five state staff and two contract workers to do the job.
“If you don’t have a verified identification, they can’t be released,” he said explaining later the Parole Board needs to have proof of who the person they’re releasing actually is.
He said many inmates give police the wrong name when arrested and many arrive at one of his institutions after conviction with that incorrect name. Some, he said, give an incorrect name because they’re facing other charges, some because they owe child support and other issues. Many, he said, have multiple aliases.
But without a verified identity, he said they can’t get community services, employment, a home or a state driver’s license. Deputy prisons director David Tristan said “every service in the community requires identification.”
He said that includes mental health and Medicaid services as well as getting a job or an apartment to live in.
Dzurenda said he will have to send out notice the department will no longer issue ID cards to inmates upon release unless their identity can be verified.
He said that means proper and valid ID is required to win parole or other form of early release. As a result, he said he expects the vast majority of inmates to demand help getting their identity confirmed and, without staff, he doesn’t have the resources to do that.
He predicted they will,”come begging to us to help them get out on parole.”
Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, D-Sparks, said the issue should have been brought to lawmakers during the 2017 session and it isn’t appropriate for an IFC work program.
Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, joined in saying she would be willing to approve the two contract workers to begin processing ID information for inmates eligible for parole but not the five permanent staff until at least the February IFC when they have more information.
Dzurenda said without state staff, they will be unable to conduct background checks to determine whether the inmate, once verified, isn’t wanted elsewhere. He said those checks have to go through the FBI controlled NCIC system and that contractors aren’t permitted to use NCIC.
Carlton said that’s another new wrinkle they weren’t aware of.
But Dzurenda said once they confirm an inmate’s ID, they have to do the criminal system background check to see if that person is wanted elsewhere on other charges.
Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, questioned what the practical consequences of approving just two contractors would be.
Dzurenda said inmates will be delayed in getting paroled.
He said that means more inmates remaining inside the already overcrowded prison system.
But members of IFC said they have too many questions about whether formal verified ID is required for parole, whether background criminal checks are required and over how difficult it is to get such things as birth certificates for inmates.
They directed staff to work with inmates and bring the issue back before IFC at its February meeting.
Dzurenda said they will do the best they can with existing staff but the decision will impact inmates who would otherwise get out of prison.
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Caltrans is continuing intermittent Interstate 80 ramp closures between Kingvale and the Nevada state line for construction activities this week.