Credits helped 170 inmates walk free early

Prison records show that more than 170 Nevada prison inmates were awarded credits between November and January, allowing them to get out of prison early.

The Attorney General's Office and the Governor's Office are reportedly investigating the early releases, which were sharply criticized by Dorla Salling, head of Parole and Probation, in a memo to Nevada's district attorneys dated Aug. 18.

Director of Corrections Jackie Crawford said Sunday she would have to look at the names and check each record to comment on why they received an early release.

"I mean, how early - 10 days? Most of them are going to be minimum security from the camps," she said. "They work hard, qualify for credits."

She said she expects there is justification for all those inmates.

"My people bring me recommendations and I rely on my staff to say those recommendations are appropriate."

Crawford said none of the inmates get out before serving their minimum sentence because they don't get credits until after serving the minimum.

She said the prison releases about 400 a month so 170 would be about a third of the total released in those three months.

Salling's memo specifically cites the release of James Yach, who served 81Ú2 years in prison for a DUI accident which resulted in the death of a Las Vegas man. Yach was denied parole by the board in February but Crawford said she granted him added credits because a review of his record showed he had earned them legitimately. He was released this month.

In the memo, Salling charged that "sentences are being reduced in such a way that it is totally defeating truth in sentencing."

She said Crawford has ordered inmates be given credit "if they simply express an interest in going to school, working, etc."

"They don't even really have to do it," she wrote.

As a result, she said inmates are refusing parole "because they know they will get out much quicker if they just stay in prison."

Crawford refused to comment on those statements.

Gov. Kenny Guinn's Chief of Staff Mike Hillerby said he has been told there are more than 100 names on the list. He said all of those cases will have to be examined to determine which inmates, if any, were inappropriately awarded credits reducing their sentence.

"We don't know the answer to that," he said.

He said the prison system tries to move inmates out of "hard beds" when possible into alternatives including home confinement and transitional housing to reduce overcrowding.

He said part of the problem is Crawford's rehabilitation, education and other programs are not popular with some officials.

"We still have a lot of folks around with 'lock-em up and throw away the key' mentality," he said. "We have to look at this stuff and see if it's legitimate or just somebody frustrated and throwing every dart at the board they can."

Hillerby said he intends to ask the attorney general's office to join in the meeting today and promised they would get answers and make them public as soon as possible.

"We need to see who this group was," he said. "Were they eligible."

In the meantime, Crawford scheduled a press conference this morning to discuss last week's escape which she says involved at least one and possibly two corrections employees, a recent parolee and a former inmate.

Jody Thompson, 24, who was serving time for multiple counts of robbery, hid in a Prison Industries truck leaving Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City and escaped in Fallon. He was still at large Sunday afternoon but Crawford said those believed to be his accomplices were in jail.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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