URGENT ACTION: Tell members of Senate Judiciary to VOTE YES on SB1068

Arizona is long overdue in implementing safe and cost-effective sentencing reform. One bill which has the potential to have huge budget savings as well as positive impacts on public safety is SB1068, which would give people incarcerated for non-violent offenses the opportunity to earn more credits toward early release, and allow them to complete their community supervision more quickly.

The bill:

  • Retains the current earned release credit of one day for every six days served (85%) for people convicted of violent offenses
  • Allows those incarcerated for non-violent crimes to earn release credit of two days for every six served (65%), including time spent in county jails
  • Reduces the required term of community supervision after release from prison for people convicted of non-violent offenses to three days for every seven days.

You can read the full text of the bill here.

This bill will face strong opposition from prosecutors. We need your voice!

Take Action!  Tell the members of Senate Judiciary to VOTE YES ON SB1068!

The bill’s first committee is Senate Judiciary, and the Chair is Sen Judy Burges (R), District 22.  The hearing will be this Thursday, 2/9/17 at 9:00am.

Sen. Burges is also the SPONSOR OF ALL FOUR OF AFSC’s Bills this year—Be sure to THANK HER for her leadership!

Sen. Judy Burges, Chair: jburges@azleg.gov; (602) 926-5861

Please call, email, or fax the members of the Committee and tell them to support SB1068. If you are a constituent of any of the other members be sure to mention that.

Sen. Nancy Barto, Vice-Chair: nbarto@azleg.gov; (602) 926-5766

Sen. Lupe Contreras, Minority Whip: ncontreras@azleg.gov; (602) 926-5284

Sen. Andrea D’Alessandroadalessandro@azleg.gov; (602) 926-5342

Sen. Frank Pratt: fpratt@azleg.gov; (602) 926-5761

Sen. Martin Quezada: mquezada@azleg.gov; (602) 926-5911

Sen. Bob Worsley; bworsley@azleg.gov; (602) 926-5760

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 VOTE YES on SB1068 Because:

  • This bill will help reduce our bloated prison population. Arizona has the highest incarceration rate of western states—the 6th highest incarceration rate in the country.
  • This bill will reduce recidivism. Research shows there is no evidence to support the theory that harsher sentences reduce crime. Crime rates have increased and decreased both before and after introduction of Truth-in-Sentencing in Arizona. States that have shorter sentences have seen greater decreases in crime.
  • This bill will save taxpayer dollars. Due to our outdated sentencing practices, Arizona ranks 4th highest among all 50 states in the percentage of general funds spent on prisons.
  • This bill will bring us more in step with accepted national practices. Arizona is one of only three states that still requires people to serve 85% of their sentence.

**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.

BACKGROUND:

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 policy is one of the main drivers of Arizona’s high incarceration rate.

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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.

The bill does not apply to prisoners convicted of violent felonies as defined in Sec. 13-706. It would not “throw open the doors” and let everyone out of prison. It will simply allow incarcerated people who pose a low risk to the community to earn their freedom more quickly.

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.  Arizona spends 60% more on prisons than higher education!  Why should Corrections grow while education, healthcare, and social services get slashed?

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