Arizona

JS Publication May 11, 2004

Arizona Prison Crisis: A Call for Smart On Crime Solutions

Mandatory sentencing laws fuel overcrowding, fill prisons with substance abusers

With the ninth highest rate of incarceration in the nation, Arizona has become the incarceration capital of the western United States. The rate of prison population growth in 2002 was twice the regional average and the state incarcerates women, Latinos and African Americans at higher rates than its neighbors.

Arizona's high incarceration rate is driven by a rigid mandatory sentencing system that severely restricts judges' discretion in imposing sentences and crowds prisons with non-violent substance abusers. Mandatory and lengthy "enhanced" prison terms are required for a variety of offenses, regardless of the facts in the case or the seriousness of the underlying conduct. Except in cases involving first-time defendants charged with low-level property or drug offenses, the system places all sentencing discretion in the hands of prosecutors. Read more »

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