Nevada lawmakers are considering sweeping reforms to the state’s criminal justice system in an attempt to reduce prison populations.
Assembly Bill 236 would reduce penalties for low-level drug crimes and create a diversion program to help offenders get treatment rather than prison time. It also makes changes to the state’s burglary statute.
An estimate by the Crime & Justice Institute, which advised on the bill, said the legislation could cut the projected prison population by 1,000 and save taxpayers $640 million in prison costs over the next decade.
The group said the state’s prison population has increased 7 percent over the past decade, and it estimates the state will spend $347 million on the prison system in 2019.
The bill as introduced in early March was met with much backlash from law enforcement and has since been overhauled, but supporters of the legislation remain optimistic.
The amendments are expected to reduce cost savings, but not enough to be substantial, said Assemblyman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor. Yeager announced the amendments this week.
"In my mind, it's not going to be reduced substantially enough to make this not worthwhile," he said, according to KOLO 8.
Among the amendments was one lowering the threshold for a felony theft charge from $2,000, as the original bill said, to $1,200.
Several amendments were also made changing thresholds for drug possession and trafficking offenses.
The bill was scheduled for a vote Thursday in the Judiciary Committee, but the meeting was cancelled. The bill must pass the committee before being voted on by the Assembly.
Nevada lawmakers are also considering reforms to civil asset forfeiture practices in an attempt to eliminate “policing for profit.”