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ACLU Warns Pending Law Changes Will Increase Incarceration Rates

Pending lawsThe American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has issued a warning about 44 pending measures before the Nevada legislature that are expected to stiffen state criminal laws, significantly increasing the number of people who will be imprisoned or jailed.  According to the SF Gate, new pending laws in Nevada are expected to create 20 new felonies and 21 new misdemeanor offenses. By contrast, there are 23 pending bills planned to reduce criminal penalties, with many of those changes aimed only at protecting gun owners and not expected to have an impact on reducing prison populations.

When new laws go into effect, state residents are expected to understand their new obligations and abide by the rules. While you cannot be jailed for behavior that was not illegal at the time you acted, ignorance of the law is also not a defense. This means when legislation makes a behavior illegal that was not a crime before or when a new law imposes a harsher sentence, you are going to be held to the new standards once they have passed even if you may not have been aware of the possible consequences of your actions.

You need to vigorously defend yourself whenever you are accused of breaking the law. A Nevada criminal defense attorney can provide guidance and advice to assist you in trying to avoid conviction or in negotiating the most favorable plea deal possible given the facts of your case.

 

New Nevada Laws Could Increase Incarceration Rates

The prison population in Nevada was around 2,000 inmates in 1980 according to the Las Vegas Sun.  Today, there are more than 12,700 people incarcerated in the state of Nevada. The higher incarceration rates largely mirror the increase in the state’s population; however, there are also concerns that criminal liability is being extended to too many offenses that should result in a citation for a violation (at most) rather than criminal charges.

Some of the new laws the ACLU is concerned about are the types of laws that impose criminal penalties for behavior that should not be classified as a crime.  For example, one proposed bill will make a third conviction for graffiti a felony offense.  Other new laws impose tough criminal penalties for disrupting a business- some believe these laws are intended to target union protests.

In addition to expressing worries that to many people are being sent to prison, the ACLU also has issued warnings that the prisons are not serving an effective rehabilitation function. One big issue is that prisoners are not being properly prepared for parole.

The Las Vegas Sun surveyed 42 inmates eligible to be released on parole.  A total of 3/4 of the inmates who were surveyed indicated that they had received little or no help transitioning to life outside of prison.  Some offenders actually refused parole, with 20 percent of those who did not go on parole saying that they had declined as a result of problems within the correction system.

Around 30 percent of inmates who were eligible for parole had not met with an assigned caseworker, and none of the inmates knew that the Nevada Department of Corrections has monthly courses about preparing for life on parole. More than 80 percent of parolees said they were also concerned about where they would live after prison, and sufficient help finding affordable housing is unfortunately not being provided.

Sending more people to prison by criminalizing more behavior and then not helping people to adjust after they get out on parole is a recipe for disaster. If you are accused of a crime, you do not want to become trapped in Nevada’s dysfunctional criminal justice system- you need to get help from an experienced attorney who can help you deal proactively with your charges to try to avoid a conviction.

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