Good article on mandatory minimums

Check out this article from an activist in Arizona about mandatory minimums. The writer makes some good points and mentions the Right on Crime campaign!

It is for this reason I am proud to be affiliated with Right On Crime, a campaign dedicated to “fighting crime, restoring victims and protecting the taxpayer.” Endorsed by prominent conservatives like Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, and William Bennett, as well as eminent criminologists John DiIulio and George Kelling, Right On Crime is leading the way in returning our system of justice to a cost-effective, restorative direction.

If you are concerned about the future of our nation and want to see justice once again be the focus of our legal system, I encourage you to visit RightOnCrime.org and get involved.

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The Conservative Case Against More Prisons

Our policy experts Vikrant Reddy and Marc Levin wrote an excellent piece recently for The American Conservative magazine. It’s entitled, “The Conservative Case Against More Prisons” and appeared in the latest issue of the magazine.

Here is an excerpt:

There are other ways to hold offenders—particularly nonviolent ones—accountable. These alternatives when properly implemented can lead to greater public safety and increase the likelihood that victims of crime will receive restitution. The alternatives are also less costly. Prisons are expensive (in some states, the cost of incarcerating an inmate for one year approaches $60,000), and just as policymakers should scrutinize government expenditures on social programs and demand accountability, they should do the same when it comes to prison spending. None of this means making excuses for criminal behavior; it simply means “thinking outside the cell” when it comes to punishment and accountability.

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Arizona Experiments with Swift and Sure Sanctions

In the same vein as Hawaii, Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, and other jurisdictions across the United States, Arizona has decided to use swift and sure sanctions, otherwise known as graduated sanctions, in order to reduce technical revocations.

Technical revocations occur when probated or paroled offenders violate a term of their supervision—such as missing a meeting or failing to pay a fine—rather than a new crime. These technical violations can sometimes pile up and result in revocation and an additional stint in a prison cell.

Arizona has realized, as so many other jurisdictions have, that avoiding technical revocations not only saves taxpayers the bill for additional months or years spent in prison, but also frees up prison beds for dangerous and violent offenders.

To that end, Arizona’s Department of Corrections created a halfway house for parolees who violate a technical provision of their release. This halfway house will include drug treatment, day reporting for employed parolees, and life skills classes. But most importantly, the halfway house will use immediate penalties and sanctions for technical violations, which will aid in reducing revocations to prison.

The cost savings to Arizona taxpayers encompasses both the cheaper per diem for community corrections, but also long term savings that result from more ex-offenders desisting from crime.

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Arizona Since the Safe Communities Act

In 2008, Arizona passed the Safe Communities Act, which authorized courts to adjust the sentences of probationers based on the recommendations of probation officers. The legislation also included performance incentives, which encouraged probation departments throughout Arizona to find better ways to ensure that probationers stick to the terms of their community supervision. Under the act, a portion of the savings from the probation improvements were returned to counties for reinvestment in drug courts, treatment, victims’ services, and criminal justice reforms. John Huppenthal is now the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction, but in 2008, he was a Republican state senator who strongly supported the Safe Communities Act because it “create[d] a structure that gives [probationers] a really powerful incentive to stay clean, get a job and pay retribution to victims, to do a better job of avoiding the technical violations and to stay perfectly in alignment with what is a very tough probation.”

Since the act was signed into law, both revocations and new felony convictions have dropped in Arizona.

Arizona Since the Safe Communities Act

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Arizona Considers Expanding Prison Privatization

Private prisons are a controversial topic in Arizona ever since the July escape of three violent offenders from a private prison near the city of Kingman.  The controversy, however, has not stopped a state commission from suggesting that more private prisons — not less — might be the answer to the state’s budget crisis.

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