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State Offices

Nevada

Every community in Nevada is impacted by misdemeanor enforcement

Every year thousands of Nevadans are impacted by the harmful and expensive system of misdemeanors. Misdemeanor cases make up nearly 60% of all criminal cases in the state. Over the last three years, hundreds of thousands of individual misdemeanor cases were filed across the state of Nevada. — nearly all of them resulting in fines and fees. These mounting fines and fees have left scores of Nevadans saddled with thousands of dollars in court debt.

The majority of misdemeanor offenses have no relationship to public safety

One way to end unjust fines and fees is by addressing their source: misdemeanors that do not contribute to public safety and/or those that criminalize poverty. While some behavior that results in misdemeanor offenses such as domestic violence and battery have clear public safety implications, much of the misdemeanor criminal code targets individuals who are living in poverty or without shelter. Examples include: camping bans, misuse of park bench laws, as well as open container and paraphernalia laws that criminalize addiction.

Laws that criminalize poverty do nothing for public safety. Instead they clog jails, courts, and bury Nevadans in court debt. These laws also waste government resources and taxpayer money to chase uncollectible debts and jail those who can’t afford to pay.

Nevadan families are being forced to bear the extreme costs of incarceration

More than 10,000 people are housed in prisons and work camps overseen by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC). Being imprisoned often comes at great cost to both the incarcerated individual and their families on the outside. People in prison are expected to pay heavily inflated costs for basic needs like food, hygiene products and medical care. In many cases, NDOC price markups on basic necessities can climb as high as 66%.

Most of the money in an individual’s commissary account (a fund used to buy basic needs) is provided by family members and friends of the incarcerated. Many families go into debt trying to pay the high costs of incarceration of their loved one.

Food and Hygiene Products 

Incarcerated Nevadans rely on food purchased from their commissary accounts to supplement the substandard quality of food available in prisons. Basic hygiene items must also be purchased from these accounts. In 2010, a law was passed requiring the NDOC to outline how they price items and present the pricing policy to the public for input. More than decade later, no such policy exists.

Medical Care 

Medical care in prisons is not free. Most prisons across the country have some form of medical co-pay but Nevada has one of the highest co-pays at $8 per visit. It was the only state-run department in the country to not waive medical co-pays during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accumulated Debt 

Incarcerated individuals often incur debt while in prison. A review of records revealed the NDOC has $10.4 million in outstanding debt which includes $1.7 million in collection and interest fees. Annual collection rates for this debt over the last three fiscal years range between .53% and 1.60%.

We’re launching a campaign to reform the misdemeanor system and prison costs

The lack of a unified court system and a large variety of case management systems means that misdemeanor data is inaccessible and incomplete at best. This is why FFJC Nevada is launching a campaign calling on the legislature to task the Nevada Sentencing Commission with a full review of Nevada’s misdemeanor system. Using the Colorado’s Sentencing Reform Task Force’s recent misdemeanor reform as a model, we believe that Nevada can move away from the criminalization of poverty being the policy of the state.

FFJC Nevada is also working with formerly imprisoned individuals, their families, and community stakeholders to educate the public and legislature on the true impact of prison costs. Our goal is to drive the passage of comprehensive regulation of all NDOC fiscal processes that impact these groups to ensure cost-savings in one area are not shifted to another.

Recent victories for fines and fees reform

End of debt-based license suspensions and criminalization of traffic tickets (2021) — On June 8th, 2021, Governor Sisolak officially signed two major fines and fees reforms into law — AB 116: a bill to decriminalize traffic tickets and stop issuing warrants over unpaid court debt and SB 219: a bill to end debt-based license suspensions passed the Senate. Read more.

AB 434 (2019) — Makes several changes regarding collection of fines, fees, and restitution. Read more.

AB 416 (2019) — Clarifies that community service credits can be applied toward outstanding fines and fees, provides that community service hours will be credited against debt at a rate of $10 per hour or the state’s minimum wage, whichever is higher; provides that any fine or fee not collected within 8 years is deemed “uncollectible.” Read more.

AB110 (2019) — Makes changes to the notification process for traffic tickets and related court dates. Read more.

Advocacy Resources

Decriminalizing Poverty Webinar: Lessons & Strategies from Nevada’s Reform Victories

FFJC Op-Ed: It’s Time for Nevada to End Modern-Day Debtor’s Prison

Policy Guidance: Eliminating Fees and Discharging Debt

Help us end the criminalization of poverty in Nevada

The Fines and Fees Justice Center’s (FFJC) Nevada state campaign is the state’s first sustained effort to reform harmful fines and fees. FFJC’s office in Nevada is building broad-based coalitions from across the political spectrum including people who have experienced the criminal justice system, grassroots organizations, activists, judges, public defenders, prosecutors, legislators, law enforcement, and faith-based and advocacy organizations.

Do you or your organization want to join thousands of Nevadans in the fight for a fair justice system? Contact Nevada State Director, Leisa Moseley, at lmoseley@ffjc.us.

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