Arizona is wasting millions of dollars by imprisoning low-level drug offenders and failing to treat drug addicts, a recent report concludes.
“Arizona imprisonment crisis removes thousands of people from the economy and costs tax- payers more than $1 billion each year (for the state Department of Corrections budget)-preventing the state from investing in other critical priorities like education, social services for families, and child safety,” said the report by FWD.us.
FWD.us is a bipartisan political group founded by Silicon Valley leaders, according to the Arizona Republic.
The FWD.us report relies on an analysis of about 500,000 records that span 30 years, reported the Republic.
Arizona could enact reforms to reduce prison population, thus reducing taxpayer expense for prisons, contended FWD.us researcher Felicity Rose. Instead, she said enactment of Proposition 301 in 2006 gave judges the ability to sentence first-time drug offenders of methamphetamine possession to prison. Previously they received only counseling and treatment, the newspaper noted.
FWD.us, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Pew Charitable Trust take the position that laws and policies of Arizona which allow that state to incarcerate for first-time drug possession is giving Arizona the “fourth- highest imprisonment rate in the nation,” the story said.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery opposed the reforms .
“If we were to lessen punishment for drug trafficking, what’s the message that we would be sending? We would just see more of that particular type of crime.” Montgomery said.
Arizona keeps people in prison 25 to 100 percent longer than national average, FWD.us said. It cited prison rates and crime have been reduced in 32 other states with programs, not prison.