PHOENIX — The ACLU of Arizona today released a report that outlines how Arizona can cut the state’s jail and prison population in half by reforming its extreme sentencing laws, its harsh restrictions on release, and its overreliance on incarceration.
The report is a part of the ACLU’s Smart Justice 50-State Blueprints project, a comprehensive, state-by-state analysis of how states can transform their criminal justice systems and cut incarceration in half.
The Arizona Blueprint includes an overview of Arizona’s incarcerated populations, including analysis of who is being sent to jail and prison and the racial disparities that are present, what drives people into the system, how long people spend behind bars, and why people are imprisoned for so long. The Blueprint examines the impact of certain reforms by 2025 on racial disparities in the prison population, fiscal costs, and overall prison population.
Among the key findings in Arizona is that drug-related offenses dominate prison admissions and contribute to a growing prison population. More than half of the people in Arizona prisons were imprisoned for an offense that did not involve violence. The state’s criminal justice system has a disparate impact on communities of color and Arizona has the highest rate of Latino imprisonment in the country.
“The analysis proves that criminal justice reform is not only necessary, it’s urgent,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “Incarceration should be the last option, not the first, but Arizona recklessly throws thousands of people behind bars every year. We are destroying lives and families and doing real harm to our communities even though it is not making Arizona safer.”
The ACLU Smart Justice 50-State Blueprints project is the first-ever analysis of its kind and will serve as a tool for activists, advocates and policymakers to push for transformational change to the criminal justice system. It is the result of a multi-year partnership between the ACLU, its state affiliates, and the Urban Institute to develop actionable policy options for each state that capture the nuance of local laws and sentencing practices.
The 51 reports (covering all 50 states and the District of Columbia) will be released in multiple phases, beginning with an initial rollout of 24 state reports, including Arizona. The state reports provide a snapshot of how reformers cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to ending mass incarceration.
The Blueprints are all viewable on an interactive website that allows users to visualize the reductions in jail and prison population that could result from policy reforms that states pursue. The interactive feature is viewable here: https://50stateblueprint.aclu.org/states/arizona
The website and the reports were created by utilizing a forecasting tool developed by the Urban Institute, which can be viewed here: https://apps.urban.org/features/prison-population-forecaster/?state=AZ
The ACLU of Arizona’s Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the state’s jail and prison populations by 50 percent and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system. The ACLU is working in all 50 states to usher in a new era of justice in America. The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is fighting in legislatures, the courts, and in the streets to end mass incarceration.
For more information about the ACLU of Arizona’s Campaign for Smart Justice: https://www.smartjusticeaz.org.