Criminal Justice Reform
Arizona has 41,964 people in prison. We can reduce that number.
Why should we want to reduce the prison population? Imprisonment separates families. It damages communities. It transfers billions of taxpayer dollars to the private prison industry without enhancing public safety. We can do better.
The ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice has compiled detailed plans for reducing prison populations in each of the 50 states. Pima County can help move toward that goal.
How can Pima County contribute? First, by electing a new County Attorney in 2020 who’s committed to criminal justice reform. Second, by the Board of Supervisors taking a more active role in shaping criminal justice policy.
Historically, the Board has largely steered clear of working with elected county department heads, like the County Attorney and the Sheriff, on matters of policy. The Board has limited its collaboration primarily to budgetary matters. But there’s nothing in the state constitution or statutes to prohibit collaboration on policy.
Here’s an excerpt from the ACLU’s executive summary plan for Arizona. (See below for links to their Arizona page and to the full document.)
“To confront Arizona’s unique challenges and reach a 50 percent reduction in incarceration, the state’s reform effort should include a fundamental shift in drug policy. Policymakers should eliminate prison admissions for drug possession and establish alternatives to imprisonment for many of the people charged with drug distribution.
“In addition, Arizona should try new approaches to how it prevents and responds to violence that are more effective and do more to help crime survivors — for example, by cutting the average prison sentence for assault in half and creating alternatives to prison, like restorative justice programs that hold people accountable and reduce recidivism. Arizona should also significantly reduce its mandatory “truth in sentencing” scheme, which forces people to remain in prison long after they can be safely released. Finally, since reducing the prison population by itself does little to diminish racial disparities in incarceration, criminal justice reform must include policies that focus specifically on combatting racial disparities.
“The answer is ultimately up to Arizona’s voters, policymakers, communities, and criminal justice advocates as they move forward with the urgent work of ending Arizona’s obsession with mass incarceration.”Blueprint for Smart Justice – Arizona