Arizona Prison Sentencing Reform Advocates Planning Potential 2020 Ballot Measure

By Bridget Dowd, Mark Brodie
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, December 24, 2019 - 12:37pm
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A prison reform organization wants voters to allow judges to impose lower Arizona prison terms for non-dangerous offenses. The proposal would end the practice of stacking charges by some prosecutors, allowing someone to be sentenced as a repeat offender even if they have no prior convictions.

Joe Watson is a spokesman for the American Friends Service Committee. He said right now, everyone who serves time is told they'll have to serve 85% of the sentence no matter what.

"Now you're going to have these opportunities to go through substance abuse treatment, to go through programming, to pursue your GED, to exhibit good behavior while incarcerated. And if you do all of those things you can now get one day out of prison for every day served."

He said lawmakers seem to be interested in revisiting sentencing laws as the number of people in state-run prisons exceeds 34,000. That doesn't count another 8,300 who are in private prisons at state expense.

But the initiative already has opponents on guard. Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall said measures like this are complex and need to go through the legislative process.

“Most of the public will have no understanding whatsoever what any of this means. They don’t understand mandatory sentencing. They don’t understand truth in sentencing. This is a very lengthy, complex, complicated initiative," said LaWall.

Caroline Isaacs is with the American Friends Service Committee, one of the groups behind this effort, and she joined The Show.

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