Organizers, communications staff will lead efforts related to eliminating cash bail systems and reducing Arizona’s prison population
PHOENIX—The ACLU of Arizona is building a team of advocates who will organize for criminal justice reform at the Capitol and in communities across the state.
“This is the largest, one-time expansion of the ACLU of Arizona’s staff in the organization’s nearly 60 year history,” said Alessandra Soler, ACLU of Arizona executive director. “Arizona’s criminal justice system incarcerates too many people and for too long, pulling parents from their children and putting unnecessary stress on our communities and government budgets. We need a justice system that prioritizes rehabilitation and training so that people can re-enter society and fully participate in civic life.”
The ACLU of Arizona is currently hiring for five positions related to criminal justice reform: an organizing director, two organizers, a campaign communications strategist, and a criminal justice litigation fellow. The organization has already hired a criminal justice staff attorney and a political director. The organization now employs 17 people in Phoenix, Tucson and Prescott.
“I know from my years as a public defender in Mohave and Yavapai counties that Arizona’s criminal justice system is broken,” said Jared Keenan, ACLU of Arizona criminal justice staff attorney. “We are addicted to putting people behind bars and stripping them of their ability to find work, vote, and live successfully in our communities. We need to take a different approach and that starts with examining our major drivers of mass incarceration: overzealous prosecutors, the cash bail industry, and the school-to-prison pipeline.”
The ACLU of Arizona’s expansion is part of the nationwide ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice — an unprecedented effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The Campaign for Smart Justice recently launched a new, multi-year initiative to make sure, through legislative advocacy, voter education, and litigation, that prosecutors are held accountable for fueling mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
“The ACLU is facing an unprecedented array of challenges here in Arizona and nationwide, and while litigation will continue to be the key to blocking many unconstitutional policies, we must also ramp up our advocacy efforts and be ready to respond to attacks on our civil liberties on multiple fronts,” Soler said. “These new positions will help us build our grassroots capacity, organize members in key geographic areas, and win on issues we care deeply about.”
The ACLU of Arizona, founded in 1959, has more than 22,000 members—up from roughly 6,000 before the November 2016 election—and an annual operating budget of $2.1 million. The organization works in courts, communities and legislative bodies to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone. In addition to criminal justice reform, the organization's strategic priorities are education equity, LGBTQ equality, and immigrants' rights.