2/16/11 Urgent Action Alert!!! Speaker and President: Tell your Judiciary Chairs to do their jobs.
The Judiciary Committee hears most bills having to do with criminal justice issues. Committee chairs have the power to decide which bills will get a hearing in their committees and which ones won’t. Senator Gould, Chair of Senate Judiciary, has stated publicly that he refuses to allow any bills on sentencing reform or private prison oversight to be heard in his committee. The Chair of Judiciary in the House has also not scheduled these bills for hearings.
THIS FRIDAY, February 18, is the deadline for bills to have a hearing in their first committee. Any bills that haven’t been heard by the 18th are effectively dead. PLEASE CALL OR EMAIL TODAY!
The President of the Senate and Speaker of the House are effectively the committee chairs’ bosses. They have an obligation to keep their committee chairs in line. They needs to tell Sen. Gould and Rep. Farnsworth to do their jobs and give these bills a fair hearing.
Why these bills deserve a hearing:
1. Private prisons in Arizona need oversight
If the escapes from Kingman weren’t enough to prove this, there is a host of research data that shows that private prisons are less safe for staff, inmates, and surrounding communities.
Unlike our current public Department of Corrections, these corporations, as for-profit, private entities, have almost no accountability to the public. They are exempted from public scrutiny under Arizona’s Open Records Act. Arizona for-profits are not even required to reveal what types of prisoners they may be importing or alert local law enforcement during escapes or riots.
Rep. Campbell and Sen. Lopez have each introduced several bills to place oversight and reporting requirements on private prisons in Arizona.
2. Millions of tax dollars are at stake in our criminal justice policies
The Arizona Auditor General reports that Arizona is set to add 6,500 private beds at an estimated cost of $640 million through 2017. This year, our corrections budget is over $1 billion, consuming 11% of the state general fund.
In the midst of a crippling budget crisis, as devastating cuts are continuing in the areas of health care and K-12 education, Arizona is poised to award more multi-million dollar contracts to these corporations with absolutely no guarantee that they save money or are safe for our communities.
3. Sentencing reform saves millions, improves public safety
Other states, which formerly had sentencing laws similar to those now in effect in Arizona, enacted sentencing reforms between 1999 and 2010. States saw reductions in prison populations while violent and other crime rates fell significantly. Annual savings in these states are estimated at as much as $80 million annually.
Rep. Ash has introduced several bills that would reduce prison populations and save millions of taxpayer dollars.
What YOU can do….
Contact Senator Pearce and Rep. Adams and ask them to tell their Judiciary Chairmen to give sentencing reform and private prison oversight bills a fair hearing.
Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams
602.926.5495 ph, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce
Be sure to cc the Judiciary Chairmen on your message:
Senator Ron Gould
Representative Eddie Farnsworth
If you can blind copy us, we will have a better idea how effective this initiative is. If you receive responses, even boiler plate ones, please share those with us, if possible.
Thanks for all your continuing assistance. Together we can make a difference!