AJA ACTION ALERT: NO NEW PRISON BEDS FOR ARIZONA!

AFSC Urgent Action Header

Gov. Ducey’s budget for FY2016 proposes 3,000 new medium-security for-profit prison beds—beds we don’t need. The Governor’s budget estimates that these new beds will cost taxpayers over $100 million over the next three years.

Corrections is already the third largest state agency budget, absorbing 11% of General Funds. Corrections’ total budget for FY2015 is over $1 billion. Yet Arizona’s recidivism rate is between 40-50%. Since recidivism means future crime, our prisons are clearly failing in their mission to preserve public safety.

Arizona’s budget priorities are completely misaligned. Historic underfunding of K-12 and deep cuts to higher education shortchange our kids and make Arizona less attractive to businesses. The state’s failure to care for the poor or treat substance abuse and mental illnesses only serve to undermine public safety.

Fortunately, new prison beds are totally unnecessary. The Department of Corrections has the authority to release thousands more prisoners every year into a Transition Program. This program saved Arizona Taxpayers over $1 million in 2014 alone.

And changes in Arizona’s criminal justice policies, such as Truth In Sentencing, could allow the state to potentially save over $200 million per year. These types of reforms have been undertaken in most other US states—including very conservative ones—and these states have seen greater drops in crime than Arizona has.

The Arizona Department of Corrections will present its budget to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees next week (2/3-2/4). They need to hear from YOU today!

Take Action!

CONTACT THE GOVERNOR AND THE CHAIRS OF APPROPRIATIONS

Tell them NOT to approve the new prison beds and instead invest $100 million in the things that truly make us safer!

Governor Doug Ducey:         (602) 542-4331 (Maricopa County and Phoenix); (520) 628-6850 Tucson; (602) 542-1381 Fax

Senate Appropriations Chair: Sen. Don Shooter, (602) 926-4139, dshooter@azleg.gov

House Appropriations Chair:  Rep. Justin Olson, (602) 926-5288,   jolson@azleg.gov 

Suggested Talking Points:

  1. 3,000 more medium security prison beds are overly expensive and unnecessary:
    • These new beds would cost Arizona over $100 million in just the first few years.
    • The Arizona Department of Corrections claims it needs the best due to population growth. But ADC’s own records show that the increase in prison population may be due not just to more people entering the system, but also to prisoners staying longer. The number of people being released decreased by 7.5% between 2009 and 2014, while at the same time the average length of a stay in prison has increased by 19%.
  1. The Department of Corrections’ funding should be tied to realistic performance standards similar to those expected of other state agencies.
    • The Arizona Department of Corrections reports that its recidivism rate is 42%. However, ADC also reports that 48.8% of inmates have served time in the Arizona prison system before.
    • Recidivism is basically future crime. If the purpose of Corrections is to preserve public safety, Arizona prisons have a 40-50% failure rate.
  1. There are effective alternatives either currently in place or being proposed that would make the new prison beds unnecessary.
    • The Transition Program allows all non-violent prisoners to be released after serving 85% of their sentence. In 2012, the program saved taxpayers $1,038,224. Yet even after statutory changes expanding eligibility and an ADC review of its criteria and procedures, the program is being underutilized.
    • A modest adjustment of Truth in Sentencing laws would potentially allow for the release of 9,500 people, with a potential cost savings of $207,493,375 per year.

**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.

 

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