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Tough On Crime Laws Could Increase Nevada's Incarcerated

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Prison cells
Derek Kay/Flickr

The ACLU of Nevada says several new bills before the Legislature would increase the number of people in prison.

More than 60 bills in front of Nevada’s legislature could impact mass incarceration in the state’s jails and prisons, according to a civil rights advocacy group.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada released a report Monday that details which bills would actually create new crimes or enhance the penalties of existing laws.

While some of the bills have already failed, the group highlighted the top 10 bills believed to still be viable legislation that would impact the criminal justice system and increase mass incarceration.

The bills outlined in the report cover non-violent crimes, according to Tod Story, executive director, ACLU-Nevada. Offenses range from the distribution of intimate images to jail time for making illegal U-turns in school zones.

"What we're talking about here is not violent or serious crime. We're talking about non-violent offenses here such as graffiti or property crime," Story said.

According to the ACLU, stiffening crime laws could increase already overcrowded populations in Nevada’s prison systems, and have a negative impact on society as well as the state budget.

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"These things do not serve as a deterrent. The person has the intent of doing what they're going to do," Story said.

The group is advocating restorative justice over punitive justice. One of the ways to do that is to untie a judge's hands when it comes to punishments.

"The judge is left with no way to craft a sentence that meets the needs of the particular individual," Story said. "We would prefer not to see incarceration as the only option available to the judicial system."

Story said the issue of mass incarceration, which has soared in the U.S. over the past few decades, is crossing party lines. 

"We have seen where liberals and conservatives have come together on the issue of reducing mass incarceration for their own reasons," Story said.

He said in Nevada is costs $20,000 per year to have one person in prison. It adds up to $255 million per year.   

KNPR invited sponsors of several of these bills to comment but none of them chose to do so.

Guests

Tod Story, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada

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