Press Contact: Joe Watson
Tucson, Arizona — June 14, 2018 — The American Friends Service Committee of Arizona was disheartened to hear of Speaker J.D. Mesnard’s decision to dissolve the Ad Hoc Study Committee on Criminal Justice Reform today in response to Rep. David Stringer’s derogatory comments regarding immigration.
In his statement, Speaker Mesnard acknowledged, “there is strong bipartisan interest to look at the issue [of criminal justice reform].” Mesnard continued by thanking the members who were willing to serve on the committee but explained that, “to avoid compromising the issue, future work will not take place in the form of this committee.”
We condemn the remarks made by Rep. Stringer. He should be held accountable by House leadership. Stripping him of a committee chairmanship would have been an appropriate action to take. But the dissolution of the committee itself–particularly one addressing such a critical issue–is the wrong response.
“Substantive criminal justice reform would be, perhaps, the most meaningful thing the state of Arizona could do to demonstrate a commitment to racial equality and fairness,” said Caroline Isaacs, Program Director of AFSC-AZ. “There could be no greater rebuke of Rep. Stringer’s hateful and divisive words than to take action to reform the laws, structures, and institutions that unfairly impact people of color in Arizona every single day.”
This year, Arizona’s incarceration rate rose to 4th highest in the US. Latinos represent about half of the prison population but only 35% of the state population. African Americans make up over 14% of prisoners but only 3% of the state population. Studying the factors behind these statistics is urgently needed. We deeply regret the Speaker’s decision to cut the conversation short. We ask him to reinstate the Study Committee with a new chairperson at the helm.
American Friends Service Committee-Arizona (AFSC-AZ) works to reduce the scope and impact of the criminal punishment system in Arizona using research and documentation, advocacy, and policy reform to advance sentencing reform, halt prison expansion and improve conditions of confinement.