Clark County, Nevada

Summary

Clark County is in the southeast corner of Nevada, encompassing the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The county is in the process of comprehensive criminal justice reform, which includes the implementation of an Initial Appearance Court to reduce the overall number of pretrial defendants housed in its county jail. As a result, the county has already seen an increase in the number of defendants who were booked on felony probable cause charges released within 24 hours from 36% to 38%.

To build on past efforts, Clark County was awarded $700,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge in 2018 to implement strategies that address the main drivers of the local jail population in the area, including unfair and ineffective bail practices that take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues. Since July 2018, an average of 129 individuals remained in custody for more than seven days on a bail less than $5,001.

To continue safely reducing the jail population, the county plans to implement key strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies and disparities, as well as improving case processing for pretrial defendants. Strategies will touch all points of the system, ranging from release for non-violent offenders, to case review by a prosecutor at the time of booking. These policy-driven strategies will reduce jail bed usage while ensuring the county advances its commitment to having the ‘right’ inmates remain in custody while ensuring access to critically needed services for all.

  • The greatest trend affecting Clark County’s jail population is the increase in arrests of the transient and/or indigent population, with many suffering from substance abuse issues and/or mental illness. An estimated 35% of jail’s current population is on psychotropic medication for various mental illnesses. Due to the size of its population and the percentage on these types of medications, the county jail has often been referred to as the largest mental health facility in Nevada.
  • Unfair and ineffective bail practices take a particularly heavy toll on people of color, low-income communities, and people with mental health and substance abuse issues. Since July 2018, an average of 129 individuals remained in custody more than seven days on a bail less than $5,001.
  • Pretrial release and length of stay are main drivers of the jail population. The jail pretrial population alone was 67% in 2017, with 7.9% remaining in custody for more than 1 year. In 2017, 16% of all low and low-moderate-risk defendants remained detained beyond three days, spending an average of 58 days in jail.
  • The misuse of the jail takes an especially heavy toll on people of color. Despite making up 42.3% of the local population, African Americans and Hispanics make up 54.1% of the jail population on average.
  • To continue safely reducing the jail population, the county plans to implement key strategies aimed at addressing system inefficiencies and disparities by concentrating on case processing for pretrial defendants.
  • Strategies will touch all points of the system, ranging from release for non-violent offenders, to case review by a prosecutor at the time of booking.
  • Key strategies and initiatives to create a safer, more effective system include:
    • Improvements to case processing efficiency for pretrial defendants, and
    • Enhanced data collection capabilities and electronic distribution of arrest documentation to the court and district attorney.

Supported with $700,000 from the Safety and Justice Challenge, Clark County will implement forward-looking, smart solutions, to further reduce the local jail population by 20% over the next two years.

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