A report saying the majority of Arizona inmates are violent or repeat offenders is being criticized as inaccurate and misleading.
The report was released last year by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys Advisory Council.
“The most serious problem with the report is the conflation of ‘repeat’ and ‘violent’ offenders – two categories that reflect very different classes of criminal. This configuration is misleading,” according to a response by Caroline Isaacs, program director of the Arizona office of the American Friends Service Committee.
“Just over 50 percent of individuals are incarcerated for a violent offense, according to an October report from the Arizona Department of Corrections. And 51.4 percent are serving their first prison term,” Isaacs wrote in her December critique.
“Drug addicts, alcoholics, and people with mental illnesses often commit multiple offenses due to their inability to control their behavior. This does not mean they belong in prison,” Isaacs wrote.
The most contrary assertion in the report is that Arizona’s truth-in-sentencing law (and high incarcerating rate) is credited for the recent decline in crime, Isaacs stated.
“Yet, the data demonstrate the crime rate increased and decreased both before and after introduction of truth-in-sentencing. Many other states have deliberately reduced their prison population through sentencing reforms and seen an even greater drop in crime rates.”