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The yard of the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City. Photo by David Calvert.

A coalition of national conservative and Republican-leaning groups has sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to support a bill overhauling substantial sections of Nevada criminal law that lowers penalties and increases access to “diversion” programs.

The letter was jointly sent by the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Right on Crime, FreedomWorks, R Street Institute and the Faith & Freedom Coalition to lawmakers after the bill, AB236, was voted out of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Friday morning.

The letter, addressed to Assembly Republican Leader Jim Wheeler, echoes concerns that Nevada’s prison population has grown above the national average and led to prison overcrowding, largely due to “minor technical violations” committed while individuals are on probation or parole. It states that lawmakers could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars over time by passing the bill, while saying following the recommendations made in the bill by the Nevada Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice would follow in the path of the recently adopted federal “First Step Act.”

“By adopting the recommendations of the ACAJ, the Legislature can follow the lead of President Trump and conservative states across the country, getting Nevada’s justice system back on a sustainable track,” the letter states. “We strongly urge you to follow the path of the President by responsibly reducing the prison population while protecting public safety, focusing resources on serious and violent offenders, and providing mental health and substance use treatment to those in need in order for them to better reintegrate and become successful citizens.”

AB236, which is being shepherded by Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager, is based on a set of 25 recommendations made by the ACAJ that lowers various criminal penalties, increases diversion programs and makes several other tweaks to the state’s criminal justice code. The bill was voted out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee earlier in May after two months of “heavy lifting” and negotiations on the bill. All five Republicans on the committee voted against the bill.

Lawmakers also received a letter Friday from Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong in support of the bill, saying that he supported measures to end the “revolving door” where individuals with mental health issues or addiction end up either in prison or on the streets without proper treatment.

“By redistributing resources within the criminal justice system, this bill will help fund law enforcement initiatives that identify and treat people in crisis,” he wrote. “Proactive responses such as this are the best way to address crime and make our communities safer.”

AB236 Letter of Support Sheriff Furlong by Riley Snyder on Scribd

Updated NV - Natl Partners Letter 05.23.19 by Riley Snyder on Scribd

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