Facts and Policy Reforms for Nevada
Like most states, Nevada’s prison population has exploded in recent decades.
As in most states, the prison population in Nevada has exploded in recent decades. Between 1980 and 2016, the state’s prison population grew more than sevenfold, and by February 2019, there were over 13,000 people imprisoned in Nevada. Without reforms that are designed to reduce the number of people currently in prison, the unsustainable growth of the prison population is projected to continue.
In 2014, of those people released from prison, 29 percent of people were readmitted to the Nevada Department of Corrections within three years. People who were incarcerated for low-level crimes such as drug and property offenses had higher rates of recidivism. Fifty-six percent of people who were admitted to prison between 2014 and 2017 were admitted for parole violations, without conviction for a new crime.
Unsurprisingly, Nevada’s mass incarceration crisis has had an enormous impact on people of color, especially Black people. In 2017, the imprisonment rate of Black people was more than four times higher than that of white people. That same year, one in 25 Black men in Nevada was in prison. Furthermore, the Native American imprisonment rate was three times higher than the white imprisonment rate in 2017.
The population of women in Nevada prisons is also growing at an alarming rate: Between 2008 and 2018, the number of women imprisoned in Nevada grew by 24 percent. During that same decade, the population of men in prison grew by only 2 percent. 60 percent of the women imprisoned in Nevada in 2018 were serving time for non-violent offenses.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Nevada can dramatically reduce its prison population by implementing just a few sensible reforms:
- Decriminalizing traffic offenses and drug possession.
- Move away from a culture of criminalization and stop expanding the criminal code.
- Reform parole and probation to ensure that those who are eligible are paroled more quickly.
- Expand the eligibility for pre-prosecution diversion courts to gross misdemeanors and certain felonies, especially non-violent ones.
- Eliminate cash bail to reduce rates of pretrial detention.
If Nevada were to follow these and other reforms outlined in Smart Justice 50-State Blueprint, 7,426 fewer people would be imprisoned in Nevada by 2025, saving over $230 million that could be invested in schools, services, and other resources that would strengthen communities.
For more information, along with detailed breakdowns of Nevada’s prison population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.