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Nevada attorneys push for release of low-level offenders to prevent spread of COVID-19

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Nevada attorneys are pushing for Governor Steve Sisolak to release certain inmates to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

"If they get sick, their prison sentence turns into a death sentence," said Defense Attorney Michael Horvath. 

Horvath and Defense Attorney Michael Mcavoyamaya filed a petition with the Nevada Supreme Court. Latest Las Vegas News They said Nevada prisons are overcrowded and it's almost impossible to follow social distancing guidelines in a cell. 

"If the U.S. government cannot prevent the coronavirus from spreading on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, the state of Nevada cannot prevent it from spreading within land based congregant environments like prisons. And it will explode from there," said Mcavoyamaya. 

Mcavoyamaya referred to the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that reported a coronavirus outbreak of COVID-19 at the end of March. A member of the crew died on Monday from complications related to the disease, according to the Associated Press.  



In the petition, Mcavoyamaya and Horvath said the governor should release prisoners who fall into one of the following categories: inmates who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and are expected to be released within 18 months, inmates who have been granted parole but remain locked up for nonviolent crimes, Press Release Distribution Service and inmates who are set to be released within the next three years. 

Horvath pointed out that released inmates would be monitored or put on house arrest to finish their sentence. 

"Right now the people of Nevada need more protection from the coronavirus than they do of somebody convicted of a nonviolent drug offense," said Mcavoyamaya. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and several other Clark and Washoe County attorneys joined the petition.

The Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) said it is already working to stop the spread of the virus by sanitizing surfaces, having infected employees self-quarantine at home and isolating inmates in their cells.

"The hole in isolation is for when they do things wrong, not for when they’re just in there," said Horvath. 

He said it's cruel and unusual punishment. 

NDOC said as of Thursday, six employees tested positive for COVID-19, mostly in Clark County.

"We have a sufficient amount of test kits at the moment to properly protect our NDOC community. If more are needed, we will use all means possible to obtain more," said NDOC Public Information Officer Scott Kelly. 

Horvath and Mcavoyamaya said that releasing certain inmates will help prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and will allow other inmates, who can't be released, to practice social distancing. 

Governor Sisolak has until Monday to respond to the petition. 

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