Audit Division

Audit Summary


Department of Prisons

Sex Offender Certification Panel

Report LA00-23


Results in Brief

††††††††††† Nevada uses three-member panels to evaluate and certify whether sex offenders should be considered for parole; however, these panels operate without adequate guidance.† Although the Department of Prisons (DOP) performs most functions related to the panels, responsibility for the panelsí activities is not clear.† State law does not identify who is in charge of the panels, and DOP does not view the panels as its responsibility.† Furthermore, panel activities are conducted without a formally designated chairman.† The lack of defined responsibilities has hindered the development of sound processes for selecting panel members, conducting hearings, and evaluating and certifying sex offenders.† As a result, certification hearings and evaluation methods are not consistent throughout the State.† In addition, the percentage of sex offenders certified varies widely among the prison institutions where panel meetings are held.


Principal Finding

                    The responsibility for panel activities is not clear.† State law requires representatives from two state agencies participate on the panels, but does not identify who is responsible for administering panel activities.† The DOP does not view the panels as its responsibility and DOPís statutes contain no specific panel-related requirements. However, legislative testimony and budget documents indicate the Department has assumed some ownership for panel activities.† (page 10)

                    The process for selecting some panel members is not clearly defined in statute.† State law requires that one panelist be a psychologist or psychiatrist licensed to practice in Nevada, but does not define how this member is selected or by whom.† In addition, qualifications have not been established for designee panel members.† More than 50 different individuals have participated on panels since July 1996, which increases the need for establishing qualifications.† (page 12 )

                    Sex Offender Certification Panels operate without an established system of management controls.† Policies and procedures have not been developed to direct and control their activities and systems are not in place for measuring, reporting, and monitoring performance.† (page 13)

                    The panelsí process for conducting meetings is not always consistent.† Until December 1998, the panels were not aware their meetings were subject to the open meeting law.† As such, panel meetings did not comply with this law until January 1999.† We also identified variations in how meetings are conducted.† In addition, most panels operate without a formally designated chairman.† (page 15)

                    The process used by the panels to evaluate and certify sex offenders is inconsistent.† While the panels complete a rating form to document their evaluations, the evaluation process varies significantly among the panels.† In addition, the panels do not have a clearly defined voting process for making certification decisions.† Furthermore, the panels do not document that offenders were under observation as required by law.† (page 16)

                    The percentage of sex offenders certified varies widely among the prison institutions where panel meetings are held.† During fiscal years 1997 to 1999, the panels certified about 25% of the offenders evaluated.† However, certification rates varied among institutions from a low of 12% to a high of 40%.†† (page 20)

Department of Prisons

Sex Offender Certification Panel

Agency Response

to Audit Recommendations










Request legislation to 1) clarify the responsibility for the sex offender certification panels, 2) identify who selects the psychologist or psychiatrist panel member, and 3) establish qualification requirements for designee panel members








Ensure management functions such as directing and controlling operations, and reviewing performance are carried out






Provide formal, periodic training to panelists on evaluating and certifying sex offenders





Establish policies and procedures for conducting certification hearings, selecting a chairman for each hearing location, and ensuring compliance with the open meeting law







Establish policies and procedures to ensure a consistent process for evaluating sex offenders





Develop policies and procedures to define and document the statutory observation requirement is met