In recent years, we’ve seen Nevada’s population and economy continue to grow. As a result, business leaders have a vested stake in ensuring our neighborhoods are safe and our tax dollars are spent to strengthen our workforce and ensure our public safety. Earlier this month, the Nevada Assembly Committee on Judiciary introduced Assembly Bill 236, a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill that seeks to focus public safety dollars on the most severe offenders while addressing the needs of those facing critical behavior issues. The Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce agrees it’s time for common sense reform and urges our legislators to balance current enforcement penalties with bold, new regulations that reflect a greater emphasis on realistic sentences, rehabilitation focused on employability skills, and lower cost alternatives like community service requirements. The cost of inaction is simply too high to ignore. Absent legislative action, Nevada’s prison population is projected to grow 9% over the next ten years at a cost of $770 million to taxpayers, siphoning needed state money away from education, workforce initiatives, and critical social services. In 2017, two out of every three individuals sent to prison were non-violent offenders, 40% had no prior felony conviction, and more than 60% had not completed high school. Research proves that sending non-violent offenders to prison actually increases their likelihood to reoffend when they are released. And unfortunately, incarceration has become the default response to people struggling with behavioral health issues, when time spent in prison will not address the underlying factors that lead these individuals to commit crimes. As recidivism rates continue to rise, our community is not receiving the desired return on its costly investment in the state’s criminal justice system. In any other industry, a business would collapse with increasing expenses and decreasing profits. The policies outlined in AB 236 can avert excessive spending over the next ten years and refocus our justice system on rehabilitation and the cost of prison beds for the most serious offenders. Isn’t it time for Nevada to address reforms that will more forcefully encourage reading proficiency by third grade, high school graduation rates, and workforce preparation for teens and young adults? The goal of our business leaders is to maintain economic vitality and sustain business growth. With 70% unemployment among those required to participate in felony DUI, drug, and mental health specialty court programs, this may be an opportune time for businesses to offer potential redemption through internships, skills training and productive work for low-level offenders. It’s time to create a sensible roadmap that will reduce recidivism, require non-violent offenders to become productive workers, reunify broken families and parentless children, and demonstrate what Abraham Lincoln said when he once asked our nation to find the “better angels of our nature”.