Thanks to everyone who attended our April 20th meeting with Director of Corrections James Dzurenda. The Director provided a very informative presentation on his current efforts to reform our criminal justice system in Nevada and the ways we can keep more of our community members out of prison. Director Dzurenda’s presentation is here: League of Women Voters – NDOC presentation 4-20-19
Unfortunately, as in many other areas, Nevada has been derelict when creating systems that address equal opportunities for every Nevadan and because of this we are now spending approximately $38,000 per year incarcerating people who are mentally ill and women who need opportunity, not prison. As the Director stated, prison should be for dangerous people, not for people who we’ve decided to abandon.
Once we incarcerate these community members, we are also failing to provide inmates with adequate mental health treatment and education programming and we are only now trying to connect justice-involved community members with education and mental health services upon release. This has contributed to our high recidivism rates.
Just imagine what we could do with the $38,000 we are spending per incarcerated community member if we could repurpose those funds into our education and mental health care budgets right now?
During our meeting, we briefly discussed ways to be more effective during the time between the legislative sessions to ensure that big goals, such as keeping women and the mentally ill out of prison, are addressed successfully during subsequent legislative sessions.
This will be one of our topics at our May 18th meeting and a big focus of our August 3rd Annual Planning Meeting.
We still have half of this legislative session still ahead, though, so let’s muster up our League energy to see if we can at least move the needle on one important criminal justice bill and one budget.
For background, here is an overview of Director Dzurenda’s strategic plan: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/InterimCommittee/REL/Document/13776
And the hearing associated with his presentation of the above plan to the legislature: http://nvleg.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=34&clip_id=10383
Director Dzurenda asked for help passing AB10, which will enable the Department of Corrections to issue a limited ID to community members being released from prison. Because the justice-involved often lack an ID, upon release it is impossible for them to cash the check the prison issues them, to refill prescriptions for medication, or to even rent a hotel room to begin re-integrating into the community.
You can review AB10 here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/5895/Overview
You can watch the hearing on AB10 here: http://nvleg.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=10725
You can indicate your support of AB10 here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/Opinions/80th2019/
You can also review the budget, #3706, that covers mental health in the corrections facilities here: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/ExhibitDocument/OpenExhibitDocument?exhibitId=39098&fileDownloadName=Department%20of%20Corrections%20Presentation%20James%20Dzurenda.pdf
To indicate your support for improved mental health care in our prisons, please reach out to each of the legislators on the below committees to ask for their support of NDOC Budget 3706 Prison Medical Care:
If you would like to provide in-person testimony on any of these bills and budgets or on any other bill, here is a copy of the League of Women Voters of Nevada Advocacy Guide. This provides an overview of the legislature’s website: https://sondracosgrove.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/lwvnadvocacyguide2019.pdf
Lastly, please save these dates for our next conversations on these issues as well as how we can be more effective during the interim:
May 18th is our last spring meeting
August 3rd is our LWVSN Annual Planning meeting