NV Kids Shouldn't Serve Sentences In Adult Prisons Said ACLU

ACLU Said State Is Failing To Provide Age-Appropriate Housing And Services For Youth Offenders

June 18, 2018 - 2:44 pm

CARSON CITY, NV (KXNT) - When children are tried in the adult court system in Nevada, they often end up housed in adult correctional facilities. The ACLU said the state is failing to provide age-appropriate housing and services for these young people. 

The state of Nevada tries children as adults for certain crimes. But when children enter the adult system, the state has very limited options for housing them. A new report from the A-C-L-U says the situation is approaching a crisis. The report shows many boys tried as adults in Nevada are sent to Lovelock Correctional Center, an adult facility. But safety regulations require boys to be kept away from the prison’s adult population. Holly Welborn with the A-C-L-U of Nevada said that means boys are isolated from the prison's main spaces.

"With Lovelock Correctional Center, the boys can't engage in any kind of workforce programming. They can't participate in any activities where they can earn sentence credits. So they're not entitled to the same rights as the other inmates because they have to be separated," said Welborn. 

Nevada's only women's correctional center has no options for housing young girls. One Nevada girl recently had to be sent to a facility out-of-state to serve her sentence, which Welborn said puts an unfair burden on the child's family. A few other states have adopted policies to house all offenders under a certain age in juvenile facilities, even if they've been tried as adults. Representatives from the A-C-L-U presented their findings this month to Nevada's Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice. Welborn said she hopes to see the lawmakers take up the issue in next year's legislative session.

Welborn said kids tried in the adult system are more likely to re-offend than kids in the juvenile system. She says giving developing adolescents access to age-appropriate rehabilitation services is in everyone's interest.

"Our public safety depends on it. All kids in the adult system, they will be released to the community. By isolating these kids, they're not engaging in programming that's going to prepare them for their lives outside of prison," Welborn said.

Welborn said only a few dozen children are currently housed in adult facilities in Nevada. She says it's a small enough group right now that she's optimistic the issue can be addressed. But she says, as Nevada's population grows, the population of young offenders is likely to grow as well.