A first-time offender for illegal drug possession in Nevada is often placed on probation. But if he fails to pay restitution, leaves the state without permission, or skips a drug test, he could land in prison. Taxpayers are saddled with his expensive housing and supervision while he is denied the help he really needs. That's why the state legislature is considering a proposal that could save millions of dollars annually by diverting eligible nonviolent criminal offenders into substance-abuse treatment, reports the Las Vegas Sun.
The measure would give judges the discretion to put certain offenders into intense drug or alcohol addiction treatment within prison facilities, but not as inmates. The difference is enormous because those segregated from inmates must pay for treatment and supervision. If they cannot fully repay the costs, they must make up the difference through community service. As of Feb. 28, Nevada had 12,444 inmates. As of 2009, 23 percent of male inmates and 49 percent of females were behind bars for property or drug crimes. Nonviolent offenders typically come from those categories. If the bill becomes law, it would depart from Nevada's long-standing reputation as a tough-on-crime state with one of the nation's highest per capita incarceration rates. The Nevada District Attorneys Association generally supports the bill.