Despite testimony heard by the legislative committee, and the best practices of numerous other states, Senator Ron Gould, the new Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, vowed that he will block any sentencing reform bill that comes before his committee:
“That’s something that will never be heard in the Judiciary Committee this year,” Gould said. “Citizens would be aghast if they heard we reduced penalties because of budget-related issues.” (“Gould jeopardizes sentencing reform; says he won’t hear bills,” Arizona Guardian, 11/15/10)
Obviously, Sen. Gould has not been paying attention: Sentencing reform is about basic fairness, public safety, AND a balanced budget. Arizona is way out of step on this issue. Our penalties are some of the harshest in the nation, our incarceration rate is the 6th highest, and our prisons are overcrowded. Apparently all this is news to Sen. Gould, who said he hadn’t read the auditor general’s report, which was released Oct. 1.” (Associated Press)
And, in case Sen. Gould hasn’t noticed, our state is deeply in the red and making cuts to many critical state agencies. The bloated corrections budget was about $1 billion this year, eating up 11% of the state’s General Fund. Why should Corrections be spared cuts while education, healthcare, and social services get slashed?
Does Gould want to deny organ transplants to poor people just so we can keep nonviolent offenders in prison? Now that’s something that should make citizens aghast.
Please call, email, or fax the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Ron Gould, and tell him to give sentencing bills a fair hearing.
Toll-free phone number to reach any state representative or senator: 1-800-352-8404. Press #3 for the Senate. Then just ask the operator to connect you to the office of the person you want to talk to.
Tell Him Arizona Needs Sentencing Reform Because:
- Arizona has the highest incarceration rate of western states. Our prisons are overcrowded, creating dangerous conditions for prisoners and staff.
- Arizona should spend what little money it has on interventions that reduce crime, are cost effective, and increase public safety. Despite our high incarceration rate, Arizona has one of the highest crime rates in the country and a recidivism rate that is an embarrassment. It’s time to try something new.
- Many other states have enacted research-based sentencing reforms that save millions and IMPROVE public safety by reducing recidivism.
- Arizona taxpayers cannot afford to keep expanding our prison system. We spent $1 billion on corrections this year. Corrections eat up 11% of our general fund. Meanwhile, our state budget crisis is forcing school closures, massive cuts to healthcare and social services, and job losses at the county and state level.