This week the news had an article about overcrowding and understaffing in Nevada prisons and jails and in Clark County Detention center in particular. This is not a new subject. As far back as 2007 the news channels were reporting that Nevada had a severe overcrowding problem. So, just this week the news reported that the problems not only have not gone away, but have worsened. There is a wait period of months to transfer the mentally ill to proper facilities. They are just languishing while they wait for a bed to open. There are offenders that never should have been put in prison in the first place. They should be in rehab centers and then there are those who are waiting for transfer to Federal facilities or other facilities. In the meantime, the tax payers are footing the bill. And, the government’s answer is to just rent space in other jails. Again who foots the bill? The taxpayers. Not to mention all the prisoners who are just waiting when they should be transferred. They are stacked in bunk beds in rooms that should only hold half the amount of men or women they hold. Is this doing anything for rehabilitation? Absolutely not. In fact, it is a crime to treat human beings this way. the only result is a person who is less likely to be able to integrate back into society.
As far back as August 2007 the RJ was reporting on the over crowding and the renting of space from other jurisdictions. In May 2011 the RJ reported that the ACLU was criticizing the overcrowding and under staffing in our prisons. In September 2008 the Sun reported that Nevada had the ninth highest incarceration rate in the country and that the prisons were overcrowded and understaffed then too.
Well, what has 2013 brought? Mother Jones reports that Ely State Prison is one of the ten worst prisons in the U.S. For the good news, the 24/7 Wall Street did not put Nevada in the top ten states for incarcerating people per 100,000. We are ranked 15th at 486 people per 100,000 incarcerated, according to the United States Department of Justice. That does not include jails, just prisons. Not anything really to be proud of.
A lot of this is political and no one seems to be willing to actually find a solution. There really is not just one solution, but many and it starts with sentencing structure. First, don’t sentence minor drug offenders to prison. It does nothing but make them worse. Second, transfer the mentally ill to appropriate facilities. Third, get those who need to be transferred to Federal facilities transferred. None of these will eliminate the problem, but it is a start.