CARSON CITY — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in June 2019 signed AB 236, landmark criminal justice legislation that will address the growing crisis in the state’s corrections system by reducing recidivism, protecting public safety, and averting an estimated $543 million in state spending over the next 10 years.
The bill is the result of a bipartisan effort to improve public safety through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a public/private partnership between the United States Department of Justice-Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Pew Charitable Trusts. In June of 2018, then-Governor Sandoval, then-Senate Majority Leader Ford, Speaker Frierson, and Chief Justice Douglas tasked the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice (ACAJ) with conducting a comprehensive assessment of the state’s criminal justice system. The Crime and Justice Institute is providing technical assistance as part of the JRI process.
Nevada has the third-highest violent crime rate in the country, with the highest robbery rate and seventh-highest homicide rate. At the same time, the state is experiencing severe shortages in mental health care providers and the opioid epidemic continues to fuel a public health crisis. Additionally, Nevada’s prison population is growing, with a 20 percent increase in the state’s prison budget since 2012. This growth in the prison population and corrections costs has not resulted in improved outcomes, as recidivism rates remain high. Nearly 30 percent of Nevada prison discharges fail in the community within three years of release.
Without significant action by the Legislature, Nevada’s prison population was projected to grow by 9 percent over the next decade, adding nearly 1,200 beds and forcing the state to either build new prison facilities or contract with other states to house the growing inmate population. The projected prison population growth is estimated to cost the state an additional $770 million in capital expenditures and added operating costs over 10 years.
Instead, AB 236 will significantly impact Nevada by slowing its prison population growth over the next decade and will allow the state to invest in the behavioral health gaps identified by the ACAJ and to provide law enforcement with additional tools to more effectively intervene in addiction and mental health crises. A few specific highlights of the ways in which AB 236 will impact Nevadans:
- People with addiction and/or mental health issues who come into contact with the criminal justice system will have more of an opportunity to access appropriate treatment in the community.
- Sentencing disparities for nonviolent property and drug offenses will be rectified by aligning penalties with the severity of conduct.
- Improved parole and probation practices will effectively change behavior and help individuals succeed.
- Averted prison costs will be reinvested towards gaps in the system such as limited law enforcement resources, a lack of transitional housing, minimal treatment opportunities in the community, and restricted victims’ services.
Click here to read coverage of the bill passage in the Nevada Appeal.
Click here to read a statement from Len Engel, CJI’s director of policy and campaigns, on the passage of AB236.
Click here to read the full text of AB 236 as passed.
Click here to read an op-ed in support of AB 236 from Ann Silver, CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce.
Click here to read coverage in the Nevada Independent.
Click here to read a two-page summary on the ACAJ’s findings and the components of AB 236.
Click here to see presentation slides from the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s hearing of AB 236 on March 8 2019.
Click here for an infographic on addressing Nevada’s behavioral health crisis using evidence-based solutions.
Click here for an infographic on Nevada’s female incarceration problem.
Click here for the ACAJ’s Jan. 11 2019 press release on the recommendations report release.
Click here for the ACAJ’s final recommendation report.
Click here to read a one-page summary of the Nov. 8 2018 drivers presentation.
Click here to download the Nov. 8 2018 data presentation to the ACAJ on prison population drivers.
Click here to download the Oct. 10 2018 data presentation to the ACAJ on prison population drivers.
Click here to read a one-page summary of the Sept. 12 2018 drivers presentation.
Click here to download the Sept. 12 2018 data presentation to the ACAJ on prison population drivers.
Click here to download CJI’s Aug. 2 2018 introductory presentation to Nevada leaders.
Click here to read the Aug. 2 2018 press release from the governor’s office.