APAAC Stands in the Way of Real Sentencing Reform in Arizona
Media Contact: Joe Watson
Phoenix, Arizona — March 21, 2018 — The Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (APAAC) released the newest version of their fatally-flawed Prisoners in Arizona report on Monday, the same week that a key piece of their policy agenda failed to clear a necessary hurdle in the legislative process. While APAAC claims to be “a frontrunner in criminal justice reform,” their actions at the Capitol prove the exact opposite is true.
House Bill 2241 (heroin; fentanyl; sales; mandatory prison), a key piece of APAAC’s legislative agenda, was introduced this Legislative Session. The bill would require 10 to 15 year mandatory sentences for sales of heroin and fentanyl–a bleak reversion to the failed “get-tough” approaches that have resulted in Arizona having the 4th highest incarceration rate in the country.
“Despite a well-financed and highly-choreographed lobbying effort, APAAC could not overcome the parade of public health advocates, law enforcement professionals, and actual criminal justice reformers who lined up in opposition to this counterproductive and short-sighted measure” said Caroline Isaacs, Program Director for AFSC-Arizona.
Meanwhile, serious methodological flaws and use of unconventional definitions make the data in the Prisoners in Arizona report, in the most generous terms, unreliable. The report has been mired in controversy since August 2017, when it was confirmed that the partisan firebrand, John R. Lott Jr., had been hired to conduct the research.
“What’s more,” said Isaacs, “is that Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery funded Lott’s research through RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) funds. These are public dollars that are intended for crime victim assistance, substance abuse prevention, gang violence intervention – or pretty much anything other than promoting the legislative agenda of Arizona’s elected County Attorneys.”
A look at the actions of this organization reveals that it has acted as a bulwark against the tide of reform that has been sweeping the nation. While many conservative states have taken bold action to reduce prison populations, fund community-based interventions, and implement alternatives to incarceration, APAAC has consistently worked to stall these efforts in Arizona or, as in the case of HB2241, lead the state in the opposite direction.