The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act is a Life Saver: Public Health Approach Promises Better Results

January 22, 2018

Phoenix, AZ.  Today, Governor Doug Ducey will call a special session to address the opioid crisis in Arizona. If passed, the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act would provide millions in additional funding for drug treatment services, expand access statewide to life-saving opioid antagonists such as Narcan and Naloxone, and establish a Good Samaritan law, which shields persons calling for help in the event of an overdose from prosecution for drug possession.

“Addressing opioid addiction as a public health crisis ensures that the public policy solutions will be appropriate and effective,” said Caroline Isaacs, Director of the American Friends Service Committee of Arizona. “We know that treatment is the best tool we have to address this problem, but the funding just hasn’t kept up with the need in most communities.”

Last June, the Governor declared a state of emergency upon findings by the Arizona Department of Health Services that opioid overdose deaths rose by 74% between 2013 – 2017. Since then, the Director of the Department of Health Services, health service providers, criminal justice advocates, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have spent long hours formulating a workable response to this crisis.

The urgency of the opioid epidemic demands comprehensive, nonpartisan solutions. The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act is a breath of fresh air for reform advocates who have worked tirelessly to address the systemic causes of drug addiction in our communities. “We have much more work ahead of us before we will be able to bring an end to the pain that thousands of family members and friends suffer daily from losing their loved ones to drug overdose,” said Isaacs. “The Opioid Epidemic Act is a giant first step toward recognizing and addressing the epidemic of addiction in Arizona, but we must be prepared to do more. Until we can find a way to reform the outdated and ineffective laws that criminalize and punish addiction rather than treat it as the health problem that it is, we will fall short of bringing a true end to this crisis.”


Criminal Justice Reform is Bipartisan in Arizona

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On January 11th, AFSC-AZ and other members of Arizona’s bipartisan coalition on criminal justice reform joined Right on Crime for a breakfast briefing that included Republican and Democrat members from both the House and the Senate. More than 100 people attended, sharing experiences and insights. Attendees chatted about current policies that intensify criminal justice issues in Arizona and exacerbate impact on low-income individuals and families, and the slate of bills being introduced create a more efficient, equitable, and effective criminal justice structure in Arizona.

Right on Crime is taking the lead on a set of four bills, written by a the left/right coalition, were designed to reduce the burden of fines, fees, and other court-imposed obligations on low-income people. They are based on recommendations from the Fair Justice Task Force convened by the state Supreme Court.

The bills include:

HB2312 an expansion of the current Arizona set-aside statute, allowing certain felony convictions to be “sealed” (i.e. not made public) to aid in housing and employment opportunities. Law enforcement would still have access to all records.

HB2313 allowing for mitigation of certain fines and fees that place an undue burden on people who are low income and increase the likelihood they can comply with court orders.

HB2314 allowing judges to have discretion in misdemeanor sentences so a person can have community service, education and/or treatment in place of probation or incarceration.

HB2169 permits the court to restrict, rather than suspend, a person’s driver license as a sanction for non-major traffic offenses, and failure to pay a civil traffic penalty. Allowing defendants to keep their drivers’ license helps them maintain employment, get to their court-required appointments, and meet other obligations.

AFSC-AZ staff also shared information on HB2303, a modernization of Arizona’s outdated and ineffective drug laws. This bill allows for people charged with drug possession who are experiencing addiction to receive less severe punishment and be directed to evidence-based treatment instead of an ineffective and expensive prison sentences.

The bill is informed by our ground-breaking report released in August 2017, Drug Sentencing in Arizona: A Prescription for Failure. In case you missed it, you can read that report here.

Conversations were dynamic and demonstrated a heightened level of interest in sentencing reform across parties and legislative districts. Senator Sonny Borelli (R-District 5) shared a story about a ride-along with law enforcement that led to a low-level drug offender being detained, his car impounded, and officers spending almost three hours filling out paperwork instead of being out on patrol.

Borelli and Caroline

Sen. Sonny Borelli and AFSC-AZ Director, Caroline Isaacs

“Are we fixing the problem? Or are we making it worse?…We need to work together to have this make sense.”
–Senator Sonny Borelli





AFSC-AZ Director, Caroline Isaacs, chats with Reps. Stringer and Engle

Also in attendance were Reps. Kristen Engle (D-District 10) and David Stringer (R-District 1), who are heading up a bipartisan study group on criminal justice reform. 

This kind of collaborative work is so important, especially with the new report from the Bureau of Justice statistics released two days before the breakfast, noting that Arizona has now gone up to the state with the 4th highest incarceration rate in the US.

As the real work begins, AFSC-AZ and coalition partners encourage you to make your voice heard. Be sure to follow up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on criminal justice bills and civic actions you can take to help pass these imperative reforms, and sign up for our mailing list here.

AFSC Arizona is Hiring! Administrative Associate Position

Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems.


Title:  Arizona Administrative Associate

Job Category:  Non-Exempt

Status:  Full-Time, Specific Term (2 years)

Supervisor: Arizona Program Director

Region/Unit: West Region  

Location: Tucson, Arizona

Date Approved:   December 2017

Summary of Principal Responsibilities

The Administrative Associate provides budgeting, bookkeeping and grant administrative support, clerical support, database management, fundraising support, office management and assistance with organizing special projects, events and volunteers as well as other duties as needed.

In addition, the position will involve administrative support for the coordination of a national network of advocates, including scheduling, regular communications (emails), conference and event planning, and other logistics.

The job requires an understanding of budget oversight and tracking, basic bookkeeping, administrative and simple human resources functions as well as the ability to deal efficiently with the routine needs of the program.  This position involves handling confidential personnel and administrative documents.

A reasonable degree of flexibility with scheduling tasks is required, along with the ability to work independently in a rapid paced environment, prioritize among competing demands, and accomplish assigned tasks in a timely manner and efficiently.  The person in this position should excel at detail and accuracy, have excellent communication skills, comfort working in a networked computer environment, and the ability to use Microsoft Office Suite, Word and Excel, or similar software for document layout, word processing, spreadsheets, and database management.  The Arizona Administrative Associate works under the supervision of the Arizona Program Director.

Essential Functions/Responsibilities:  The key responsibilities of the Arizona Administrative Associate include the following:

  1. Act as Finance liaison, which includes office accounts payable, processing check requests and staff credit card receipts and the handling donations and tracking of office finances.
  2. Assist with job searches, process paperwork for new hires and personnel changes; maintain Human Resources files; serving as a liaison with the West Region administrative assistant for Human Resources.
  3. Support the Director with tracking program budget and income and expense reports.
  4. Assist with grant proposals, data collection, grant documentation, record keeping and grant reporting.
  5. Manage logistics for special projects, events and evaluation of programs.
  6. Building and strengthening office systems, including developing and maintaining standards procedures, record keeping systems, and databases.
  7. Recruit, train, and schedule interns and volunteers.
  8. Manage administrative detail of program work such as logistics and reports.
  9. Assist with general office tasks such as sorting mail, responding to phone messages, keeping inventory of office supplies, and communicating with landlord.
  10. Manage Network, including scheduling meetings, notifying members of upcoming meetings, draft agendas, prepare meeting materials, and take meeting minutes.
  11. Perform other tasks and duties as needed.

Minimum Qualifications

Education: Bachelor’s degree or equivalent strongly preferred. Exceptional work experience may be accepted in lieu of the degree.

Experience: 1-2 years administrative, finance/accounting, and/or office management experience

Other Required Skills and Abilities:

  1. Experience with conference and event planning.
  2. Proficiency in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) and Google Docs.
  3. Facility with databases, spreadsheets, and record keeping software.
  4. Meticulous with details.
  5. Ability to work in a fast-paced, sometimes intense environment.
  6. Expert in juggling priorities and deadlines.
  7. Emotional maturity and a sense of humor.
  8. Ability to talk with and relate to a wide variety of people.
  9. Strong written and oral communications skills.
  10. Person of strong character, integrity, and discretion.
  11. Formerly incarcerated people and families of incarcerated people are strongly encouraged to apply.
  12. Commitment to Quaker values and testimonies. Understanding of and compatibility with the principles and philosophy of the American Friends Service Committee including non-violence and the belief in the intrinsic worth of every individual.
  13. Understanding of and commitment to the principles, concerns, and considerations, of AFSC in regard to issues of race, class, nationality, religion, age, gender and sexual orientation, and disabilities. Demonstrated ability to work and communicate with diverse staff.

Compensation:  Salary Range 12 – Non-Exempt – Comprehensive medical and hospitalization plan; term life, accident and salary continuation insurances, defined benefit pension plan, plus fringe benefits; participation in unemployment and worker’s compensation and social security.

The American Friends Service Committee is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.  Qualified persons are encouraged to apply regardless of their religious affiliation, race, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

AFSC’s Central Office and some of its offices in the U.S. are unionized workplaces. This position is not represented.

The American Friends Service Committee is a smoke-free workplace.

To apply, click HERE

Victory! Pima County Passes Historic Resolution Against Use of Private Jails

Today, the Pima County (Tucson), Arizona Board of Supervisors passed a historic resolution to prohibit contracting with private, for-profit prison companies like GEO Group or Core Civic (formerly CCA) for jail operations.

The American Friends Service Committee – Arizona (AFSC-AZ) welcomes this positive step forward. As states increasingly take steps to reduce prison populations, private prison companies are looking to make up lost revenues by exploiting other aspects of the incarceration industry, such as local jail management, halfway houses, and even “alternatives to incarceration,” like electronic monitoring.

The move in Tucson is in stark contrast to a recent contract that the City of Mesa, AZ signed with CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, CCA) to house their jail detainees. Despite widespread and vocal community opposition, the Mesa City Council voted to approve the contract, citing promised cost savings. But critics argue that the leadership in Mesa did not do their “due diligence” on the company, and that a simple Google search would reveal widespread problems in their facilities.

For-profit prison corporations like CoreCivic rarely manage jails. Of the 47 facilities they own and/or manage, only five are jails. Two of the five are proposed or in the process of contract cancellation, including the Washington, DC jail and the Marion County Jail in Indiana. The DC jail is being transitioned back to public management after a damning report by the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs revealed serious issues, including “alarming” physical conditions, overcharging, and inadequate training for staff.

Jail populations are fundamentally different from prisons. Jails are administered at the County or municipal level and house a significant population of pre-trail detainees—people who are awaiting trial and, therefore, have not yet been convicted of a crime.

 Fortunately, the leadership of Pima County chose to prioritize the well-being and safety of all of its residents, even those who have been accused of breaking the law. The resolution sends a strong message that Pima County values its people and the integrity of local government over promises of cheaper jails.

“Big for-profit corporations operate on the cheap by cutting correctional officers and other corners, which reduces public safety and creates costs we still must pay,” said Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías, sponsor of the Resolution.

AFSC-AZ hopes that this action will spur dialogue among other cities and towns about the trends in private prison companies seeking such contracts and the potential tradeoffs between promised cost savings and mismanaged, unsafe, or unconstitutional facilities.


AFSC-AZ Research Joe Watson, District 3 Supervisor Sharon Bronson, AFSC-AZ Director Caroline Isaacs, and District 5 Supervisor Richard Elías

Want to know more about the dangers of for-profit incarceration?

AFSC-AZ Report – Private Prisons: The Public’s Problem, 2011

Morrison Institute – White Paper on Prison Privatization in Arizona

AFSC-AZ Report – The Treatment Industrial Complex: How For-Profit Prison Corporations are Undermining Efforts to Treat and. Rehabilitate Prisoners for Corporate Gain 

Ducey’s 911 “Good Samaritan” Proposal is a Responsible Solution to the Ongoing Opioid Crisis

AFSC-AZ is proud to partner with behavioral health providers, public health organizations, county governments, and others to promote public health solutions to address addiction without criminalization. Read the statement below to find out more about the 911 Good Samaritan law and the lives it can save.


Hundreds of people die from drug overdoses each day (64,000 deaths in 2016). Overdoses have now surpassed motor vehicle fatalities as the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. In Arizona, the spike in overdoses has reached such devastating heights that Governor Ducey declared it in June a statewide health emergency.

In many respects, Arizona is leading the way in fighting this disturbing trend. Thanks to a law passed by the state legislature last year, first responders, community organizations, and family members now have access to opioid antagonists such as Narcan and Naloxone to stop an overdose in its tracks. However, not everyone has these life-saving tools on hand when they or someone they know is experiencing an overdose. They must call for help – many do not.

Reporting an Overdose in Progress Should Not be a Crime

If treated in time, overdose deaths are preventable. Most overdose-related deaths occur just a few hours after the victim has taken the drug. Their chance of survival is completely dependent upon how quickly they can receive medical assistance. The most commonly cited reason for not calling for help is fear of arrest or punishment by law enforcement.

While tragic, these fears are not without warrant. A witness calling for emergency medical help for an overdose could face years in prison if they are found in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia. What’s more, without changes to the law, volunteer medical professionals and witnesses who aid an overdose victim face possible prosecution for doing so.

Good Samaritan Laws Save Lives

Governor Ducey’s Opioid Action Plan, released earlier this month, includes a recommendation that the Legislature enact a Good Samaritan law to prevent prosecution for those calling for help during an overdose. To date, 40 states have some form of Good Samaritan laws on their books. Designed to save lives, these measures provide general immunity from arrest or prosecution for certain possession offenses when calling 911 for assistance with an overdose. In each case, these laws have proven to save 9 to 11 percent of victims from an overdose. In Arizona, this would have amounted to nearly 100 lives saved in 2017 alone. As a network of organizations focused on bringing responsible justice solutions to Arizona, we support the Governor’s recommendation for a Good Samaritan law and urge the Legislature for a quick and swift passage of the bill in the upcoming legislative session.

Addiction Haven, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Arizona, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Arizona Chapter, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice (AACJ), Arizona Council of Human Service Providers (AzCHSP), Arizona Medical Association (ArMA), Arizona Opioid Treatment Coalition (AOTC), Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association (AOMA), Arizona Public Health Association (AzPHA), Aunt Rita’s Foundation, CODAC, Community Medical Services, Copper Basin Coalition, Gila County Department of Health, HOPE, Mohave County, Intensive Treatment Systems, Kingman Area Meth Coalition, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), Mohave County Department of Public Health, Mohave Substance Abuse Treatment & Education Prevention Partnership (MSTEPP), Sonoran Prevention Works

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Download this 9-1-1 Good Samaritan Press Release here.

AFSC Arizona and FAMM Partnership

For many years AFSC-Arizona has been working to reform sentencing and prison laws in Arizona. Now, we are excited to announce that we are partnering with the national group, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM).

FAMM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization located in Washington, DC that has advocated for sentencing reform in state legislatures across the country and in Congress for more than 25 years. FAMM has worked with lawmakers to reform or end mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent and low-level crimes in a number of states, including Iowa, Florida, Michigan, and New Jersey.
Photo Credit: Kat Grigg via Flickr

To do this work, FAMM tells the stories of people who are incarcerated and their families to help legislators understand how mandatory minimum sentences are unjust and hurt families and communities. Your stories can help us and FAMM convince Arizona legislators to change mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

The process is simple. FAMM first asks for information about a person’s crime and sentence, then researches the person’s criminal history and sentencing. If the person’s sentence is particularly unjust and their story is particularly sympathetic, FAMM works with the incarcerated individual and family to write their story, which is then shared on FAMM’s website, with lawmakers, and, if requested, with reporters and the media.

FAMM is looking for the stories of people in prison in Arizona who:

  1. Have been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, and
  2. Have no record of arrests or convictions for violent crimes, and
  3. Are serving a mandatory minimum sentence in an Arizona prison.

If you or someone you know meets these criteria, please click here to fill out the form, and mail it to:
FAMM logo

FAMM, Attn: Arizona,
1100 H St. NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC  20005

or attach it in an email to

Thank you for helping FAMM and AFSC-AZ tell your stories so that we can change lawmakers’ minds – and change Arizona laws!

Arizona further invests public retirement in Private Prisons

The American Friends Service Committee has long been opposed to Arizona’s deep financial involvement in the for-profit private prison industry. Fundamentally, that is because we believe that incarceration for profit is immoral. But we also know that these corporations are profoundly mismanaged, negligent, and do not deliver the cost savings they promise to taxpayers.

That is why we were deeply disturbed to learn that the Arizona State Retirement System (ASRS) just increased its shares in CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), the largest for-profit prison company in the US.

During the second quarter, the ASRS “raised its position in shares of Corrections Corp. of America (NYSE:CXW) by 1.8% during the second quarter, according to its most recent filing with the SEC. The fund owned 49,800 shares of the real estate investment trust’s stock after buying an additional 900 shares during the period. Arizona State Retirement System’s holdings in Corrections Corp. of America were worth $1,373,000 at the end of the most recent quarter.”

The ASRS is the government-run retirement system whose membership includes employees of the State of Arizona, the three state universities, community college districts, school districts and charter schools, all 15 counties, most cities and towns, and a variety of special districts. A total of 205,162 members around the State.

In 2017, the State of Arizona spent approximately $168,617,100 of general fund dollars on private prison contracts. As of the latest Department of Corrections report, Arizona currently has 5 contracts that account for roughly 14% of the Department of Corrections’ $1 billion budget.

As the state’s corrections budget has grown, it has siphoned off general fund dollars from other critical agencies and programs. Ironically, some of those who have lost the most in state funding are the very same whose retirement is now invested in this predatory industry. For example, the Grand Canyon Institute reported that Arizona spends 60% more on prisons than on state colleges and universities. Yet, the retirement funds for those professors are now tied up in the corporation that arguably benefitted from the drastic reduction in state funding for higher education.

It is also worth noting that two former members of the Arizona Board of Regents were also serving on the Board of Directors of what was then Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic). Former Arizona Senator Dennis DiConcini came under public pressure to resign from the Board from immigrant rights advocates and others (including AFSC) for his willingness to accept huge stock dividends from a corporation that was detaining thousands of immigrants in Arizona and elsewhere. He later resigned from the Board of CCA.

Another former ABOR member, Anne Mariucci, is currently listed as “Independent Director” at Corrections Corp. of America. She remains on the Board of Directors at Corrections Corp. of America, as well as Southwest Gas Corp., Arizona State University Foundation, Banner Health System, Inc., Fresh Start Women’s Foundation and The University of Arizona Health Network. Notably, she served previously as the Director of the Arizona State Retirement System.

CoreCivic is also the largest employer in Pinal County, where it operates a total of 6 facilities. In addition to contracts for incarceration of Arizona state prisoners and Mesa Jail detainees, the company also imports prisoners from California, Vermont, and Hawaii, as well as thousands of immigrant detainees from ICE and the US Marshals.

The corporation is moving aggressively into other areas of Arizona’s criminal justice system, including the recent privatization of the Mesa jail and the acquisition of New Beginnings Treatment Center, Inc, a residential reentry center in Tucson that holds a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

A closer look at the ASRS’s holdings reveals that it is also invested in the nation’s second largest for-profit prison corporation, GEO Group. In fact, as of August 2, 2017, ASRS had 52,450 shares in the company–more than its recent increased investment in CoreCivic. GEO Group also holds contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections for Florence West and Phoenix West.

You can read the full list of the Arizona State Retirement System’s investments here.

AFSC has long advocated for divestment from private prisons as a strategy that both individuals and institutions can use to help end for-profit incarceration. The organization even has a website that allows people to scan their investments to find out if any of their holdings are involved in prison profiteering: