Auditors say contractors should handle felony presentence investigations

The state's new Internal Audits Division recommended Monday that Parole and Probation turn over the job of preparing presentence investigation reports to a private contractor.

Auditor Lee Pierson said the state could save more than $1.3 million a year by having a private contractor prepare the reports used to help judges decide sentences in felony cases.

But Gov. Kenny Guinn suggested the state go one better and consider handing the entire job over to county governments.

He said the state should question everything it is doing, "why are we doing it and should we be doing it." Guinn said the state could save a lot of money by telling counties to take over the job.

The reports are mandated by state law in every felony case. They are designed to ensure that sentencing recommendations to the judge in any felony case are objective.

The state has a total of 87 staff positions assigned to presentence investigations and reporting - 57 sworn officers, 7 civilian program officers and 22 clerical positions. In 1999, Parole and Probation prepared about 10,000 presentence reports.

Told that Nevada law requires the state conduct the investigations and prepare presentence reports Guinn said, "Statutes can be changed."

Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa agreed: "Even if we got Washoe and Clark, that's about 80 to 85 percent of the ballgame."

And Controller Kathy Augustine said that issue could tie in with a legislative audit that accused local justices of the peace of raking off fees, fines and forfeitures money that should rightfully go to the state.

"We need to see if we are actually performing these things for the counties, are we actually getting the money," she said.

Pierson focused the audit on existing state law, saying P&P; could do the investigations and reports more cheaply without sacrificing quality through a contractor.

Under the current system, he said it costs the state about $5 million a year but that a private contractor could cut that to about $3.7 million.

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