Established: July 18, 2009
Editor: Margaret Jean Plews

This site is to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. If you're unfamiliar with prison abolition, check out Critical Resistance. I'm just a freelance writer and human rights activist, and have no legal training.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

AZ early release bill: Rep Gowan- hear HB2521!


Sentencing reform (OCT 9: AZ Republic

--------from the AFSC in Tucson-----

Tell Rep. Gowan to Hear HB2521!
Arizona is long overdue in implementing safe and cost-effective sentencing reform.  Despite recommendations by the Auditor General, testimony heard by legislative committees, and the best practices of numerous other states, serious obstacles have been placed in the path of several sentencing reform bills this session.  The House Speaker has assigned them to two committees, plus Rules.  The bills must pass out of their first committee by February 17th or they are effectively dead.
One bill which has the potential to have huge budget savings as well as positive impacts on public safety, is HB 2521, which would afford non-violent offenders the opportunity to earn credits toward early release faster than is currently the case. 
The bill’s first committee is Military Affairs and Public Safety (MAPS), and the Chair is Rep. David Gowan (District 30).  His district includes parts of Tucson, Green Valley, and Sierra Vista.  If you are a constituent, it is particularly important that you contact him.
Take Action!  Tell Rep. Gowan to give HB2521 a Hearing!
Please call, email, or fax the Chair of the House Military Affairs and Public Safety (MAPS) Committee, David Gowan, and tell him to allow sentencing reform bills a fair hearing in his committee! 
If you are a constituent of any of the other members of MAPS, please also contact them:
Terri Proud District 26, Vice Chair
Jeff Dial District 20
Ruben Gallego District 16
Albert Hale District 2
Jack W. Harper District 4
Richard Miranda District 13
David Burnell Smith District 7
David Stevens District 25
Toll-free phone number to reach any state representative or senator:  1-800-352-8404.  Press #3 for the Senate and #4 for the House. Then just ask the operator to connect you to the office of the person you want to talk to.
Tell Them To Give HB 2521 A Hearing Because:
·         It targets nonviolent offenders.  They would be required to follow the rules and participate in rehabilitative programming in order to be eligible, and the Department of Corrections would still have the final say in whether or not an individual prisoner could be released early to community supervision.
·         Average annual cost for minimum security is $20,000 a year, while average annual cost for community supervision is $3,000 a year.
·         Arizona has the highest incarceration rate of western states.  In 2002 Arizona spent 40 percent more on universities than corrections.  TODAY WE SPEND 40 PERCENT MORE ON PRISONS THAN UNIVERSITIES!
·         Similar reforms have been very successful in other states, saving hundreds of millions of dollars and improving public safety.  Mississippi revised its earned release credits formula for nonviolent offenders and saved $200 million.
**If you can blind copy or cc us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is.  If you receive responses, even boiler-plate ones, please forward those to us, if possible.
Currently, regardless of whether the offense is violent or nonviolent, no one can get released earlier than 85% of their sentence, even if they are a model prisoner.  This bill would offer a highly motivating incentive for inmates convicted of a nonviolent offense to stay out of trouble and participate in rehabilitative programs, by giving them a release credit of one day for every three days served instead of one day for every 7 days.
This would not apply to prisoners convicted of serious, violent or aggravated felonies as defined in Sec. 13-706.  They would be required to follow the rules and participate in rehabilitative programming in order to be eligible, and the Department of Corrections would still have the final say in whether or not an individual prisoner could be released early.
The Arizona Auditor General estimates that such a change could result in significant cost savings for taxpayers.  According to the Arizona Department of Corrections the average cost per prisoner for minimal incarceration is $20,000 a year, while community supervision costs less than $3,000 per year.
A similar effort in 2008 in Mississippi—hardly a liberal, soft-on-crime state—resulted in an estimated $200 million savings in corrections costs (though Mississippi adopted a more aggressive change than is proposed here).
Arizona is way behind the curve on this issue.  Over half of US states have taken action in recent years to reduce their prison populations.  And many of these states saw greater reductions in crime rates than Arizona.
Arizona has some of the harshest sentencing laws in the nation, our incarceration rate is the 6th highest, and we are spending over $1 Billion on prisons every year.  The bloated corrections budget was the only state agency that saw an increase last year—of 10%!  Why should Corrections grow while education, healthcare, and social services get slashed? 

Caroline Isaacs,
Program Director,
American Friends Service Committee, Arizona
103 N. Park Ave., Ste 111
Tucson, AZ  85719
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