When my volunteers and I are out talking to voters, I’m often asked what I do as your Assemblywoman when the Legislature is not in session in Carson City. For me, being your Assemblywoman is a year-round job because when we’re not in session we’re working in interim committees that can look deeper into issues.
Did you know…
“More than one in four adults in the United States — some 65 million people — has a rap sheet. And this is a conservative estimate. There are 14 million new arrests every year. More than 19 million people have felony convictions, and millions more have been convicted of less serious crimes. The nation’s shameful incarceration rate — 2.2 million adults currently in jail or prison— is the highest in the world.”
My bill on reforming criminal infractions, which I introduced last year and was referred to an interim committee, was heard by the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice last week. I believe unnecessary incarceration is happening daily because of the way we have defined a misdemeanor, so I used one of my bills to address the issue. What are “criminal infractions” in Nevada are civil penalties in most states. Couple our criminal infractions of minor traffic violations with our states 800,000 record reporting error, and we are putting people just like you and me behind bars, which is a huge expense to taxpayers.
As a side note, incarceration is becoming the new normal in our country, so much that Sesame Street created a character whose father is in jail to better connect with the 2.7 million children who watch Sesame Street daily. I don’t want this to be the case, and the first place to start addressing this problem is by making sure we’re not unnecessarily jailing people over the most minor offenses. Click here to watch the Sesame Street clip here. In Nevada, if the court does not have record of the payment of a ticket, a warrant is issued. The next time a police officer runs your driver’s license (including if you are in an accident that isn’t your fault) you could be arrested. In two situations, Assembly District 4 constituents have been arrested over unpaid tickets that were paid. One was a result of the 800,000 missing records recently reported. Click here to read the news story.Justice Hardesty said during the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice hearing last week that using the criminal justice system for collections of minor fees and fines is really bad policy, and the court system isn’t equipped to collect these fines and fees. He acknowledged that we have a collection problem in Nevada, and in addition to the incarceration, it is causing problems for funding our court system. The two most important things to me are that we don’t arrest innocent people and that when we do arrest someone, the penalty must fit the crime. As it stands today, with criminal infractions not being civil penalties, we are arresting unnecessarily. Justice Hardesty said it best: “I think the bottom line is that changing these infractions from a criminal penalty to a civil penalty is the start, but it’s a much deeper issue that goes beyond that.” You can watch the entire discussion from the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice meeting by clicking here.
The other legislation I’m working on will make sure the penalty fits the crime by taking a hard look at Nevada’s controversial sex offender law. Click here to read the Las Vegas Review-Journal story.
There is no doubt that we need to protect our families and children from the most violent of sexual offenders; however, this legislation has too many unintended consequences, including a huge cost to taxpayers for growing and maintaining a database of non-violent offenders. It begs the question, what is the true definition of a sex offender? I think we need to clarify the meaning of sex offender.
These are just a few of the issues I’ve been working on, and I will continue to work for you to find common sense solutions to some of the biggest problems our state is facing.
I’ll report back on these two bills soon.