Elected prosecutors who support HB 2241 ignore past failures of mandatory minimum sentences
PHOENIX—The Arizona House of Representatives today voted down HB 2241, a bill that would undermine the effectiveness of Gov. Doug Ducey’s Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, which takes an evidence-based, public health approach to opioid addiction. The vote was 32 to 27.
Instead of supporting the treatment and rehabilitation of people with opioid addiction, HB 2241 would allow prosecutors to throw people with addiction into prison for a decade or longer. The mandatory minimum sentences proposed by HB 2241 would remove people with addiction from their support networks and toss them behind bars, where they are unlikely to receive effective treatment. Arizona’s bloated prison population already costs taxpayers $1 billion per year. Elected prosecutors including Bill Montgomery, Sheila Polk, and Barbara LaWall, who all have a political interest in securing unnecessary convictions, are pushing this proposal.
“For people suffering from addiction, serving longer sentences has little or no impact on recidivism,” said Will Gaona, ACLU of Arizona policy director. “Even though Arizona passed similar mandatory minimums for meth in 2006, the abuse and sale of that drug is more common than ever in Arizona. No matter what prosecutors say, the evidence shows that prison is not an effective solution to drug addiction.”
“The elected prosecutors who are pushing this bill say it will allow them to target drug dealers, but drug dealers and drug abusers are not distinct groups,” said Jared Keenan, ACLU of Arizona criminal justice staff attorney. “Addicts often sell small amounts of drugs to feed their addictions. Instead of heeding the governor’s call for compassion and treatment for people suffering from addiction, this bill treats addicts as if they were part of a large drug distribution cartel, sending them to prison for many years when all they need is effective drug abuse treatment.”
Although HB 2241 failed on the House floor today, prosecutors are likely to try to revive it for another vote. The ACLU of Arizona is asking people to sign a petition to show their opposition to the bill’s mandatory minimum sentences.