Arizona Criminal Justice Reform Goes Nowhere

arizona criminal justice reformThere are over 40,000 people in prison in Arizona. There are around another 14,000 in local jails, many of them waiting to go to prison. We will be the first ones to say that, yes, there are people who should be incarcerated for their crimes. We will also stand up and say that there needs to be changes in the way we sentence people in Arizona.

Today, we want to discuss recent efforts to reform the criminal justice system in Arizona and some of the obstacles have been. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, please seek assistance from an Arizona criminal justice attorney who can be by your side, working to ensure you are treated fairly.

Reforming The System

Over the last few years, criminal justice reform has begun to take place in many states around the country. As expected, it has taken Arizona a while to even begin the conversations of change to the system. This has been a state that prides itself on being tough on crime.

This year looked promising though, with the legislative session filled with bills that would make changes. However, as we are learning, nothing has passed through the legislature and gone to the Governor’s desk for a signature.

  • One bill would have given judges more discretion when it comes to mandatory minimums. These sentences can harshly affect first-time offenders or those with relatively minor offenses. This bill died on January 28 without a hearing.
  • Another bill would have automatically designated certain low-level felonies as misdemeanors, a move to alleviate unnecessarily harsh sentences for certain non-violent crimes. This bill died on March 3 in the Senate.
  • One bill, designed to give prisoners more earned release credit, died on January 24 without a hearing. This bill would have helped many offenders work towards earlier release and bring the state’s strict sentencing in line with the rest of the country.

What Is Going On?

So many of the criminal justice reform changes that have been proposed seem like common sense to most of the population, so why are our legislators struggling to find consensus? Unfortunately, like so many things in our society, politics plays a major role.

On one side, reform advocates want major changes. On the other side, lawmakers do not want to be seen as being weak on crime. The middle ground, it seems, get drowned out in the chaos.

Arizona is one of only three states left in the country with “truth-in-sentencing” laws that require prisoners to serve 85 percent of their sentence before having a chance at release. Since these laws swept into popularity in the 1990s, most states have realized that they have been ineffective in curbing crime. In fact, they have done the opposite.

What Steps Can You Take

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, please seek assistance from an Arizona criminal defense attorney. You need an advocate, someone who will thoroughly investigate your case in order to get your charges reduced or dismissed altogether. As you can see in the story above, your charges matter, particularly when it comes to sentencing. Do not let yourself get put into a flawed criminal justice system.

We need to state this again clearly – your charges matter. Law enforcement and prosecutors tend to throw every charge they can at a person accused of a crime, regardless of whether or not they think they can defend it in court. Their goal is to ensure a plea deal. Your defense attorney’s goal will be to ensure your freedom.

Find out about white collar crime and criminal law on forgery in Arizona.