Weekly Update

2020 Weekly Update: April 3rd

COVID-19 Update

As we descend further and further into “unprecedented” territory, it’s important to note that the Arizona Department of Corrections seems to be doing the same old, predictable thing: Avoiding accountability & transparency.

While hundreds, if not thousands, of families across Arizona have begged for information regarding ADC’s plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside state prisons, the department has mostly ignored them. And instead of answering direct questions from reporters, the department has stalled and evaded them while disseminating vague, ambiguous “management strategy updates” via its website, corrections.az.gov

Just Wednesday, April 1st, the department announced via said update that it had tested 34 incarcerated people for COVID-19, with 29 negative results and another five still pending. But ADC failed to add where those tested are incarcerated, what symptoms they exhibited, and what’s being done to protect those around them. 

On Monday, March 30th, the department posted another update, claiming that ADC Director David Shinn had reached an agreement with all 15 county sheriffs throughout Arizona to suspend transfers to state prisons for 21 days. It turns out, however, that the agreement does not apply to jailed persons who have been detained because of technical violations on community supervision. And, another important note: All 15 sheriffs did not, in fact, agree to Shinn’s plan. 👇

For what they’re worth, here’s a list of other “management strategy updates,” so far:

April 3rd
March 25th
March 23rd
March 20th
March 18th
March 13th

Nice work, Pima County Public Defenders!

Thanks to the hard work of the Pima County Public Defender’s (PCPD) office, dozens of people stuck in pretrial detention at the Pima County Jail were recommended for release last week in order to prevent widespread infection of COVID-19.

It all started with a memo from Joel Feinman, the head of PCPD, to other county agencies — including the Pima County Attorney’s Office (PCAO) — urging the release of as many people charged with nonviolent offenses as possible.

“Given that so many [people] are charged with nonviolent drug offenses, and the overwhelming majority of them are in jail because they’re too impoverished to pay for their bail, it’s inhuman to condemn people to illness and death because they can’t afford to post $1,000 bail on a drug possession case,” Feinman told Tucson Weekly. “It’s simply inhuman.”

Pima County isn’t the only jurisdiction in Arizona releasing folks from pretrial detention. Coconino County released approximately 50 people a couple of weeks ago (and about 100 to date); Graham County Undersheriff Jeff McCormies told AFSC-AZ that his jail population had been reduced by “about 25 percent” by working with local courts; and Maricopa County has suspended its work release program, allowing an unspecified number of people to go home.

Our coalition is continuing to work toward widespread releases throughout the state to minimize infection due to “jail churn”. Follow AFSC-AZ’s social media accounts for updates.

AFSC-AZ will continue to focus on how to best help those impacted in our state prisons. We will share updates and actions as we know more. In the meantime, you can find our updated COVID-19 resource page on AFSCArizona.org

Recently, we uploaded tips for staying connected with your incarcerated loved ones. Plus, the results from our COVID-19 survey, in which we asked all of you to share what information you need from the Department of Corrections. We’re also launching a virtual clearinghouse of organizations you can support and actions you can take to help incarcerated people across the country.

Our friends at FAMM are promoting an action to humanize people in prison who are frightened of COVID-19. All it takes is a social media account to help!

Jump onto Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, share a photo of your incarcerated friend or loved one, and write a tweet or a post that goes something like:

#iCARE4 [person’s name]. [Something special about this person] She/he is worried about #COVID19 in prison and especially those who are elderly.

Another social media action you can join is Puente’s #FreeThemAll Twitter storm campaign, as Puente demands that ADC and Director Shinn “release ALL individuals from ADC facilities to protect public health and safety during COVID-19”.


In The News…

Ducey won’t release nonviolent offenders, ignores recommendations for clemency
April 3rd, 2020 by Elizabeth Whitman, via Phoenix New Times

Prison employees test positive for COVID-19, fraction of sick inmates not tested
April 1st, 2020 by Dave Biscobing, via ABC15-Phoenix

California to release 3,500 inmates early as coronavirus spreads inside prisons
March 31st, 2020 by Paige St. John via The Los Angeles Times

Arizona Correctional Officers Say They Are Not Allowed to Wear PPE at Work
March 31st, 2020 by Jimmy Jenkins & Steve Goldstein, via KJZZ

 Know Your Bills! 

Let your representatives know that you support Sentencing Reform in Arizona!

HB2808: prisoners; release credits.

Increases earned release credits fro for people not convicted of a violent or aggravated felony per ARS 13-706 and who complete specific work or major programming in ADC.

**An amendment was added that prevents Functional Literacy and GED classes from counting as programming for earning time. AFSC-AZ does not support this amendment.**

Assigned to Senate Judiciary – awaiting committee hearing date.
HB2893sealing arrest; conviction; sentencing records.

Allows the sealing of conviction histories after a certain period of time, and based on the following tiers:
A person whose record is sealed means their arrest, conviction, and incarceration information is not public record, but remains available to law enforcement and courts.

Was not heard in committee, will not move forward in bill process.
HB2236deferred prosecution program; definition.

Removes restrictions from deferred prosecution programs. Law currently allows prosecutors to prevent people who have previous or specific convictions from being able to avoid prison.

Assigned to Senate Judiciary – awaiting committee hearing date.
SB1171: criminal justice case information; reporting.

Provides a detailed structure of criminal justice data that must be collected and made public by the Attorney General and County Prosecutors offices.  Includes basic demographics and variables of prosecutors practices to understand where there may be biases in the system. This will help create better criminal justice policies. 
HB2250grants; behavioral health treatment services.

Establishes a community treatment and safety fund that will appropriate money for treatment to prevent incarceration, as well as after incarceration to help reduce recidivism. These funds are specifically allocated to the Department of Health Services, not the Department of Corrections. 

Awaiting committee hearing.
HB2608: overdose and disease prevention programs; requirements; standards.

Establishes harm reduction program for cities, towns, counties and NGOs that would provide needle exchanges, overdose prevention and peer support services, while reducing the risk of needle stick injuries to law enforcement. 

Assigned to Senate Health and Human Services committee – awaiting committee hearing date.
HB2045: correctional health services; prohibited contracts.

Prohibits the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) from contracting with private vendors to administer medical, mental health and dental care to incarcerated people beginning in June 2021 and transfers that responsibility back to ADC. 
HB2087 probation; technical violations; reinstatement

Allows for a reinstatement of probation when a technical violation occurs (not a new crime) instead of revocation to prison.

Assigned to House Judiciary on February 19th at 8:30am.
HB2234: sentencing; aggravating circumstances

Makes technical fixes to clarify the intent of the statute, but does not make a substantial change toward sentencing reform.
Passed in House Judiciary on February 5th. Awaiting House Floor vote.
HB2383: sentencing ranges; minimum; maximum; repeal

Makes technical fixes to “clean up” sentencing ranges prescribed by statute, while maintaining existing minimum, presumptive, and maximum sentencing levels. Removes some language that prosecutors can use to more easily elevate a charge to aggravating.
Assigned to House Judiciary on February 19th at 8:30am.
HB2755: schools; drug violations; reporting options

Allows school authorities to bypass law enforcement and instead move a student to a treatment program if they are caught with drugs in a drug free school zone.
Assigned to House Judiciary on February 19th at 8:30am.
SB1556 civil asset forfeiture; conviction; procedures

Requires a person to be convicted, with exceptions, before property that is seized and subject to forfeiture may be forfeited and makes corresponding changes to judicial proceedings. Modifies permissible use of Anti-Racketeering Revolving Fund monies.
Passed in House Judiciary on February 13th. Awaiting House Floor vote. 
HB2069: corrections oversight committee; ombudsman; duties.

Good: Establishes a much-needed oversight committee to hold ADC accountable.

Bad: Includes ADC director and excludes directly impacted people. 

Was not heard in committee, will not move forward in bill process.
HB2036: fentanyl; heroin; carfentanil; mandatory sentencing.

Establishes 10- and 15-year mandatory minimum sentences for people who sell heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids. It removes options for probation and community treatment, and does not allow judicial discretion. 

This bill is currently held, but may reappear in the Senate.
HB2140: prisoner injuries; monetary judgments; reimbursement.

Would require people who have been incarcerated to pay back medical care costs from their time in prison, even when the expense comes from negligence by the prison or their contracted labor company. If a person does not pay the fees they are at risk of being ineligible for rights restoration. 

Assigned to Senate Transportation and Public Service Committee- awaiting committee hearing date.
SB1172: sex offender registration; requirements; vehicles.

Increases surveillance forms for people who are convicted of sex offenses and reduces time period for people who are homeless to re-register from every 90 days to every 30 days.

Will be heard on Wednesday, March 18th, in the House Judiciary Committee. Call your Representative and tell them to VOTE NO on the floor!
HB2299: unlawful food or drink contamination
Makes it a Class 6 felony if someone does a stupid internet stunt.
Passed in House Judiciary on February 5th. Awaiting House Floor vote.
HB2538: health care workers; assault; prevention
Increases punishment for assault charges when the incident occurs specifically with health care workers. Creates increased criminalization of vulnerable populations. 

Will be heard on Wednesday, March 18th, in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Call the committee and tell them to VOTE NO.d committee assignment. 

In the meantime, you can start to build momentum for commonsense ERC reform by uploading AFSC-AZ’s #ERCReformAZ Facebook photo frame and telling your families, friends and followers that the 85% rule is failing our communities. Click here to upload yours now!

If your reform efforts are focused on achieving real accountability from ADC, you can upload AFSC-AZ’s #CitizensOversightAZ Facebook photo frame. Click here!

Categories: Weekly Update

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