Third in a Series Exposing Nevada’s Negligent Prison System and Parole Board
A Public Slate Exclusive
The first two articles in this series exposed a failed branch of the department of correctional facilities in Nevada. Lack of intelligent and just decisions by the parole board forced inmates whose sentences had concluded the date dictated by the court system to remain incarcerated beyond their release dates. This inaction is inhumane and also results in tens of millions of dollars in expenditures paid for by Nevada taxpayers. The worst consequence has not been discussed until now.
Mercedes Maharis, who provided much of the information for these articles, continues to fight for the human rights of those who have unfairly and immorally received prolonged sentences in Nevada’s state prisons. As I write this she is attempting to work with the legislature to reverse unfair treatment of a group which is singled out by the parole board.
There is little doubt that the title sex offender immediately attaches a stigma to the individual and conjures horrid images of unspeakable acts. This is where it begins. The reality is that sex offenses have a wide range of degree and content. The tragedy occurs when they die while incarcerated without receiving basic human rights.
Nevada is one of many states which fails to differentiate between those who commit crimes of intent with those who have mental problems. Statistics are unavailable or simply obscured by the prison system revealing the number of inmates convicted of sexual offenses who have died in a mysterious fashion while incarcerated. Without proper mental treatment, they can come in mentally ill and leave mentally ill to offend again without understanding why they offended in the first place. The system continues a culture of punishment, too often of death, not a culture of rehabilitation. An eye for an eye and a tooth.
California has released its own statistics, and its records are expected to be indicative of prisons across the nation. California’s inmate percentage of sexual offenders is estimated to be 15 percent. This relatively small percentage of the general population accounts for 30 percent of homicides inside prison walls.
California began releasing information defining the identities and crimes of those who were murdered while serving their sentences in the general population in 2007. In that year 23 out of 78 deaths were convicted sex offenders. California designated special areas for confinement of those who were considered vulnerable to attacks by other inmates. This only appeared to clearly define those who were subsequently murdered.
Prison officials defended the statistics by diverting the attention of authorities to overcrowded prisons. Lower level criminals remained in jails, while violent prisoners and sex offenders dominated the prison population.
Nevada has no separate facilities in its correctional system for sex offenders. At present Idaho and Iowa are the only two states who have addressed the problem seriously. Both states offer programs to identify the root cause of sexual crimes and present solutions for rehabilitation and therefore diminishing recidivism percentages.
Between 2007 and 2014, Nevada State Prisons witnessed 316 deaths of the total inmate population. The number of deaths of sex offenders was 103, or one-third of the total number. Yet sex offenders comprise less than one-fifth, (19.5 percent), of the total prison population in Nevada.
During that same time period a disproportionate number of first time sex offenders died compared to those with prior convictions. 68 first time sex offenders were murdered or died from natural causes; 35 deaths had prior convictions. The question arises; were those with prior convictions more able to protect themselves?
This situation is the direct result of Parole Board inefficiency and the stigmata they have placed upon any and all sex offenders. The Board expressed little concern for the conduct or physical condition of these specific inmates who rightfully expected to be released after completion of their court ordered sentences.
With a lack of programs directed at first time sex offenders, Nevada’s recidivism rate is nearly 25 percent; Iowa’s is under four percent. Sex offenders have been forced to seek parole multiple times; too many denied until death, which was a sentence that the judge or judge and jury did not give to them. One inmate appeared before the parole board 32 times.
Static-99R is intended to be an actuarial tool to aid interviewers in a parole hearing for sex offenders. Here is a list of its considerations.
- Prior sexual offenses
- Prior sentencing dates
- Any convictions for non-contact sex offenses
- Current convictions for non-sexual violence
- Prior convictions for non-sexual violence
- Unrelated victims
- Stranger victims
- Male victims
The final instruction states: “The Static-99 is administered in an interview setting by probation/parole officers, correctional case managers, as well as mental health professionals.”
The truth is that there are parole board hearings with only two members of the parole board in attendance, and low risk to re-offend sex offenders have been denied parole multiple times.
When constitutional rights are violated there should be a public uproar. These individuals are intentionally subjected to incarceration far beyond the intent of the court system.
Nevada’s legislature is in session this year. Proposals have been offered which would change our state’s present failed parole system. There is no way to predict what action Nevada’s legislators will take; if any. It is paramount that each person reading this expose contact their representatives and demand fair treatment for these forgotten men.
For the Public Slate: James Turnage
Here’s a link to a video of a parole hearing: http://www.mediafire.com/watch/m5owyxf8u1x7dju/JVid2015NVLegislature.mpg
Source: Mercedes Maharis; MA, MS, MA