The budget bill released yesterday would require the Department of Corrections to award a contract for 1,000 medium security prison beds to open on July 1, 2016, to be expanded to 2,000 beds (total) in subsequent years, with legislative approval.
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. Some existing programs, like the Transition Program, are underutilized. This program saved Arizona Taxpayers over $1 million in 2013 alone. There is already a bill (SB1390) that is progressing through the legislature that would potentially release 3,500 people in FY2016 and 5,000 every year thereafter, rendering new prison beds unnecessary.
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 House Appropriations Committee will hear this bill TODAY (3/5) at 3:00pm. They need to hear from YOU RIGHT NOW!
CONTACT THE GOVERNOR AND THE MEMBERS OF HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS
Tell them NOT to approve ANY new prison beds–Not now, not EVER!
Governor Doug Ducey: (602) 542-4331 (Maricopa County and Phoenix); (520) 628-6580 Tucson; (602) 542-1381 Fax
House Appropriations Chair: Rep. Justin Olson, (602) 926-5288, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice Chair: Rep. Vince Leach, (602) 926-3106, email@example.com
Rep. John Allen, (602) 926-4916, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Russell “Rusty” Bowers, (602) 926-3128, email@example.com
Rep. Ken Clark, (602) 926-3108, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Mark Cardenas, (602) 926-3014, email@example.com
Rep. Rick Gray, (602) 926-5993. firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Stefanie Mach, (602) 926-3398, email@example.com
Rep. Eric Meyer, (602) 926-3037, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Warren Petersen, (602) 926-4136, email@example.com
Rep. Tony Rivero, (602) 926-3104, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Andrew Sherwood, (602) 926-3028, email@example.com
Rep. David Stevens, (602) 926-4321, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Michelle Ugenti, (602) 926-4480, email@example.com
Suggested Talking Points:
- More prison beds are a long-term fiscal burden:
- These new beds could cost Arizona over $100 million in just the first few years.
- A new prison contract would burden the state with a 20-year commitment, most likely with a guarantee to keep the prison 90% full or more.
- 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 90 days before their 85% release date. In 2013, the program saved taxpayers $1,087,494. There is currently a bill moving through the legislature (SB1390) that would potentially release 3,500 people next year and 5,000 people every year thereafter, making new beds unnecessary.
- 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.
- 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.
**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.