Prison director being investigated in the early release of inmate

The governor's office is investigating accusations that Nevada prison director Jackie Crawford broke rules to give an inmate good time credits he didn't deserve, resulting in his early release from prison.

James Yach had served 8-1/2 years of a 5-20 year sentence for a DUI accident which resulted in the death of a Las Vegas man. The Parole Board denied his petition for release Feb. 17 of this year.

But between then and Aug. 24 when he was released, he was granted enough additional "good time" credits to complete his sentence.

Gov. Kenny Guinn's Chief of Staff Mike Hillerby confirmed the office is investigating the allegation Crawford broke rules in granting those credits.

"If this was done inappropriately, there's going to be hell to pay," he said. "If a person was let out short of his sentence, that's a very serious problem. It's not fair to the victim, not fair to citizens, and not fair to the judicial system that imposed that sentence."

The DUI case was prominent in Clark County in part because, at the time, Yach's father, Gordon, was chief of the Metropolitan Police jail.

Crawford confirmed she approved the additional credits for Yach. He had appealed twice to the prison administration claiming he was denied credits he had actually earned, she said.

"We did an audit and I credited those days because that was time he earned," Crawford said.

She said Yach had been a model prisoner for the past eight years in minimum custody.

"This gentleman has never had any kind of write-up."

She said Yach also helped save a corrections officer's life during an incident in a warehouse - pulling him from a burning truck - which she said justifies a special grant of good time credits in any case. The prison director is permitted to award credits for exemplary or heroic conduct by an inmate.

"I empathize with the victims, but I think 8-1/2 years is a long time to be in minimum security. I did give that to him. I think it was fair, that it was his time he had earned."

Gordon Yach said he never asked Crawford to intervene and that, during the case, never asked the judge or prosecutors for any favors, even though he knew them personally.

Hillerby said the governor's office and attorney general are both investigating the case. He said they will examine detailed prisoner records to determine whether Yach actually earned the good behavior credits.

While Hillerby said the credits let Yach out a year early, Crawford said she believes it was more like three months.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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