Taxpayers footing bill for NV parolees kept in prison - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Taxpayers footing bill for NV parolees kept in prison

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Guard towers appear above cell blocks at High Desert State Prison. (File/FOX5) Guard towers appear above cell blocks at High Desert State Prison. (File/FOX5)

Michael Martin, an inmate at High Desert State Prison, was due to be released in Apr. 2014. He stated in a letter sent to the FOX5 newsroom that he remains behind bars as of Feb. 3.

Martin isn't alone. According to the Nevada Department of Corrections, there are between 350 and 400 inmates who fall into this category of being granted parole but still behind bars.

Taxpayer dollars are footing the bill for their prison stays. 

"It is aggravating," Leslie Brown, a current inmate at Florence McClure Female Prison, said. Like Martin, she's supposed to be out of prison, granted parole in Dec..

"I feel like I did my time, and I want to go home and I'm stuck here," Brown said in a collect call from inside prison walls.

According to Cal Potter, a Las Vegas attorney who has personally worked on cases like the ones involving Brown and Martin, there is no right for parolees to be released immediately despite them being granted.

A telling byproduct of these cases is prison overcrowding, he said.

"You have these individuals in custody. They've been paroled. It just doesn't speak well for the system, for anyone's perspective, that if a inmate was paroled, that they stay in custody for years," Potter said.

To be granted parole, an inmate has to go before the parole board and show they don't pose a threat to society. They also typically have to take counseling courses.

The process is not easy, and the majority of inmates get denied. Inmates trying to leave also have to show where they'll be living, and that's where the majority get stuck. Most do not have money for a home, and others do not have family who can take them in.

There is a transitional housing program called Casa Grande, but inmates said it's routinely full and strict about which types of inmates can live there. 

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs U.S. taxpayers $30,000 a year to incarcerate an inmate. If you multiply that number by the number of inmates waiting to be released on parole in Nevada, it means the Silver State could be paying $10.5 million a year for inmates who were granted release. 

FOX5 called the Nevada Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety, which handles paroles. Neither returned calls in time for the story's broadcast on Friday. However, the NDOC sent an email asking for questions, which we complied. Those answers were not yet provided.

In January, Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-NV, expressed frustration at prison overcrowding. He stated a desire to make it easier for inmates paroled to leave. A spokesperson for the governor told FOX5 there are plans to increase transitional housing funding by $230,000 a year. 

The Vera Institute of Justice also estimates that Nevada is about $15 million over their annual budget. 

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