Current Issues, Videos and Research
pertaining to Criminal Justice:

Proposed Sentencing Changes:   
Nov 10, 2010 

Ever since I've given a number of media interviews about my work on sentencing reform, I've gotten a lot of angry responses from people accusing me of wanting to let criminals back out on the street in order to save money for the state.  That is absurd!  I don't know who made that up, but let's take a minute here and see what I am REALLY suggesting. 

First:  No one wants to put criminal predators back on the street -- especially me!  It's not worth any amount of state budget savings to put our citizens at such a risk.  It's never been on the table, and it will not happen.

Second:  If we were to put eligible nonviolent offenders back on the street, we would never just open the doors and let them fly away, like some people are supposing.  That has no chance of being successful. 

We have seen from the research studies performed by various educational institutions and from the recent efforts of other states, that people who have been convicted of non-dangerous offenses have a better chance of turning their lives around when they are given a second chance under strict supervision, than if they are put away for several years in prison.

We have done the math:  in 2009, the cost to Arizona taxpayers to imprison a single person, averaged $22,794 per year.  While practicing as a public defender, I personally saw a judge send a man to prison for 8 1/3 years for stealing a used bicycle worth about $200.  Understand that because of the way the prosecutors filed the case, the sentencing judge did not have a choice under Arizona's sentencing statutes since the bicycle thief had a prior conviction.  The taxpayers' cost to imprison this man for 8+ years was $160,000 ... for a $200 crime.  This doesn't make any kind of sense.  Especially when the evidence now shows it is so much cheaper and far more effective to provide close supervision in the community, rather than prison for that 8-year period.

In this example, during an 8-year probation under the watchful monitoring of a probation officer, the offender has a serious chance of achieving rehabilitation and making proper choices in his life when faced with situational problems.  He won't get that opportunity in prison.  Plus, the offender has a way to pay back the value of what he stole, as well as a portion of this attorney's fees and court costs.  He won't get that opportunity in prison either.

The same management tools work with drug users.  Monitoring and treatment are far less expensive than years in prison, and these options provide a more serious chance of rehabilitation than prison.

If we leave things the way they are, it will cost an additional $974.8 million (over and above the $949 million appropriated to operate the Department of Corrections in 2011), to build new prisons and pay private prisons to house the 0,000 new inmates expected to arrive into the system in the next few years.  The whole purpose for sentence reform is to change an unsustainable status quo to a less costly and more permanent positive outcome for the offender, and for society. 

See a list below of some of the studies that have been done, and reports on some of the states who are very pleased with the results for changes they made to their sentencing statutes, both from a human perspective and a fiscal perspective.   

49th Legislature, 2nd Regular Session
In response to the numerous emails, phone calls and letters received concerning HB2569, which pertains to the sex offender registry, I am posting herewith my response so that those who have expressed their concern may understand what this bill is about and why I sponsored it.

When one hears the word “sex offender” it is not unusual to conjure up images of rapists or child molesters.  And indeed, these are among the worst, most evil and pernicious criminals in our society.  I agree with all of you who do not want to see the law go easy on any of these deviants, who generally deserve to be severely punished and watched for the rest of their lives. The harm and damage they inflict on their victims and their victims’ families is immeasurable.  The recent California case of Phillip Girrado, who kidnapped young Jaycee Dugard and held her in secret captivity for 18 years, is an example of the kind of sex offenders for whom there should be no relief.  If these kinds of offenders were the only sex criminals under our law, there would be no need to question the current laws. 

But suppose your 18-year-old son or daughter had a romantic relationship with someone more than 2 years younger?  Or suppose your senior in high school “moons” someone as a practical joke, and ends up getting charged with indecent exposure.  Under certain situations, these could also be charged as sex offenses, with the resulting consequence of lifetime registration as a sex offender. 
It is a serious thing to charge someone with a sex crime. In the first place, these charges carry such severe penalties that in some cases the right to trial is completely abrogated.  I once observed the sentencing of an 18 year-old mentally slow young man who had been involved sexually with 13 and 14-year-old boys.  Neighbors at the sentencing related that the 13 and 14-year-old boys were more likely the aggressors, and likely had not been traumatized by the behavior.  Yet, the 18-year-old boy accepted a plea offer of 10 years in prison, because if he had chanced going to trial and lost, he would have died in prison of old age.  The risks were too great to risk a trial. 
In the case of consensual sex, alleged victims usually do not suffer any physical damage and in many cases any do not suffer psychological damage. In a society that permits the display of sex in every venue, including movies, sports, television, magazines, and nearly every other communication, including cell phones and iPods, it is hypocrisy to be severely punitive when youth cross the line.
The case that shocked me about the registration practice was that of a young man, 18 years old, who had a romantic relationship with a 14-year-old girl.  This relationship was condoned by her parents.  When as a 15 year old she went to the hospital for the birth of their twins, the authorities arrested him the next day and charged him with two counts of a sex crime.  Although some minimal leniency was shown, he was still given lifetime probation and required to register as a sex offender.  Although he married the girl, and they lived happily for a number of years until she and the twins were killed in an accident, the young man was treated as a pedophile, and to this day, as a 43 year old man, he must still register as a sex offender.  Over the years when he has changed residences or work, he has found fliers posted in the neighborhood indicating that a sex offender lives in the neighborhood. 
In my opinion, this is wrong.  If you disagree with me, then that is your right.  However, I believe our society has an obligation, a solemn duty, to see that justice does not become a travesty. Occasionally, people get away with murder.  But sometimes, our justice system can over-reach and the innocent suffer, or perhaps the guilty are too harshly punished.  It makes a difference if this is happening to unnamed criminals that you see or hear about on TV, but when it’s a family member or friend, it makes you question whether anyone cares.  I care.


Current studies, research and reports  


Watch the 12/15/2009 Sentencing Committee Hearing
  9 speakers and public testimony, committee agendaminutes

Watch the  5/14/2010 Sentencing Commitee Hearing   9 speakers and public testimony, committee agenda, minutes

Watch the 11/17/2010 Sentencing Committee Hearing   presentation by Auditor General, public testimony, committee agendaminutes

Watch the 12/14/10 Sentencing Committee Hearing,  the final hearing in the series of committee meetings.  committee agendaminutes

Watch the 02/01/11 KAET Channel 8 Horizon discussion with David Derickson, former presiding criminal judge from Maricopa County, and myself regarding sentencing reform. 

Listen to a KJZZ 01/12/11 Here and Now interview by capitol reporter Steve Goldstein, with ASU Law Professor Carissa Hessick and researcher Henry Whitmer regarding the possibilities for sentencing reform for the state of Arizona as a result of research that was done on the evidence gathered from the experience of other states.   

Watch the 
11/19/2010 KAET Channel 8 Horizon discussion on the legislative landscape for sentencing reform, with Ted Simons and journalists Mary Jo Pitzl, Howard Fischer, and Mary K. Reinhart.  The discussion on sentencing reform begins at 6:10 minutes on the slider. 

Watch the 11/9/10 Fox 10 News story by Alex Savage, Sentencing Changes Could Reduce Arizona Prison Population.  Interview clips.

Watch the 11/18/10 ABC15 News story/interview by Reporter Dave Biscobing, Should Budget Cuts Mean Less Jail Time


Sentencing in Arizona: Recommendations to Reduce Costs and Crime  •  Associate Professor Carissa Hessick and seven Law Students from ASU Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law  •  December, 2010   [Referenced during the Sentencing Committee hearing December 14, 2010]

Arizona Initiative  • RIGHT ON CRIME The Conservative Case for Reform  September 2010 [This Arizona report - among other reports on initiatives implemented by other states - analyzes the result of Arizona's 2008 incentive-based reforms to the adult probation system.   Overall, the state saw 12.8% recidivism reduction in 2009, the first year of the program's implementation.  Mohave County alone saved $1.7 million.  Right on Crime is a group of conservative political, fiscal, religious, legal and institutional leaders whose purpose is to make a conservative argument for criminal justice reform The group is endorsed by a number of high-profile, notable conservatives including Newt Gingrich, Grover Norquist, William Bennett, Ward Connerly, and numerous other conservative advocates.  
Washington Post Editorial • Newt Gingrich & Pat Nolan • Jan 7, 2011
Report on Prison Population Growth in Arizona
 • Arizona Auditor General • September 2010 

Powerpoint Presentation to the Arizona House Sentencing Committee •  Arizona Auditor General •  November 17, 2010

Arizona Prison Population Projected to Grow Twice as Fast as General Resident Population, Independent Study Finds  • Justice Center, Arizona PEW Press Release • Feb 6, 2007 

Arizona Prison Crisis, Call for Smart on Crime Solutions • Families Against Mandatory Minimum • May 11, 2004 

Weed and Seed Reentry Initiative • Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee District of Arizona + US Attorney’s Office • May 11, 2010  

Prisoners in Arizona: A Profile of the Inmate Population • Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council, Daryl R. Fischer, PhD • March 2010 

Dollars Sentences and Long-Term Public Safety • Middle Ground • Sept 2003


Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms  •  PEW Center on the States • June 2012  •  [Summary: This new study by PEW found that in the last 20 yeas, the length of time served by prisoners has increased 36%.  This comes at a high price for states, showing that at least half of those released in 2009 were nonviolent offenders.

Prison Count 2010
 • PEW Center on the States • April, 2010  [Statistics and discussion on current state & federal prison populations, more than half of the states' population declined, Arizona's did not] 

One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections  • PEW Center on the States • March 2009  [One in every 31 adults in the U.S. is under the control of the correctional system]

One in 100 Behind Bars in America 2008 • PEW Center on the States • February, 2008   

Less Crime, Lower Cost Data-Driven Decisions in Sentencing and Corrections  • The PEW Charitable Trusts • NCSL Fall Forum 2009  

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security • Adam Gelb, Director Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Center on the States • May 11, 2010  


Deterrence in Criminal Justice:  Evaluating Certainty vs Severety of Punishment • Valerie Wright, PhD, The Sentencing Project • November 2010  •  Summary:  The report addresses a key concern for policy makers as to whether deterrence is better achieved by increasing the likelihood of apprehension, or increasing the severity of sanctions. Some of the findings regarding deterrence:  the certainty of punishment is more effective than severity; many prison terms could be shortened without having any adverse effects on public safety; mandatory sentences burden state budgets with no increased benefit for public safety.   

Downscaling Prisons, Lessons from Four States
  • The Sentencing Project • 2010 • Summary: This report analyzes the impact of legislative and administrative policy initiatives on state prison populations in New York, Michigan, New Jersey, and Kansas. The report documents that crime rates fell in all four states during the implementation of various reforms.
The State of Sentencing 2009: Developments in Policy and Practice • The Sentencing Project [A study of 19 states’ efforts to reduce prison population] • published 2010  

Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship  • The Sentencing Project • 2005 •  Summary: Increasing incarceration while ignoring more effective approaches will impose a heavy burden upon courts, corrections and communities, while providing a martinal impact on crime.   

Viewpoint:  The Impact of mandatory minimum penalties in federal sentencing • Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project  •  JUDICATURE Vol 94, No 1 • July-August 2010  • [based on testimony before the United States Sentencing Commission on May 27, 2010]


More Mentally Ill Persons are in Jails and Prisons than Hospitals: A Survey of the States  •   E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., et al. for Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs Association  •  May 2010    [This report shows Arizona is second in the nation in our rates of incarceration of those living with a mental illness.]

Evidence-Based Practice to Reduce Recidivism: Implications for State Judiciaries
 • National Institute of Corrections + Crime and Justice Institute • Aug 30, 2007 

Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population • JFA Institute  • November 2007 •  [JFA INSTITUTE: "Conducting Justice and Corrections Research for Effective Policy-Making"]  This report will take some serious time to download or open. 

Alternative-To-Incarceration Programs for Felony Offenders: Progress Report and Preliminary Findings from a Recidivism Analysis  •  Rachel Kramer and Rachel Porter, Vera Institute of Justice, submitted to the New York City Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator  •  June 2000  •  Summary: This report documents the outcomes of a large sample of Alternative-to-Incarceration participants in New York City. The programs assessed were established to serve as alternatives to jail and prison.   

Using Intensive Case Management to Reduce Violence by Mentally Ill Persons in the Community • Hospital and Community Psychiatry, Vol 45, No 7, p679 • July 1994  


Fight Crime and Save Money:  Development of an Investment Tool for States to Study Sentencing and Corrections Public Policy Options • Washington State Institute for Public Policy • April 2010  

Reforming Mississippi’s Prison System • JFA Institute with the Mississippi Department of Corrections for PEW Center on the States • August 2009  

Staff, Denying Parole at First Eligibility: How Much Public Safety Does it Actually Buy?  A Study of Prisoner Release and Recidivism in Michigan  •  Citizen Alliance on Prison & Public Spending  •  August 2009  •   Summary: This study tests the assumption in the context of parole decision-making by comparing the recidivism rates of people who were released when they first become eligible with those of people who were denied release for some number of years. 

Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative  •  Staff, Quarterly Status Report: First Quarter Fiscal Year 2009 •  2009  •  Summary: This overview of the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative documents preliminary findings through August of 2008 and reports a 26% improvement in total returns to prison against the 1998 baseline (across all of the release cohorts as a group.) This translates into 945 fewer returns to prison so far when compared to baseline expectations (a numerical reduction that will grow considerably if these results are sustained over a full standardized multi-year follow-up period).

What Works: Effective Recidivism Reduction and Risk-Focused Prevention Programs,  A Compendium of Evidence-Based Options for Preventing New and Persistent Criminal Behavior •  Prepared for the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice by Roger Przybylski of the RKC Group • February 2008 •  Summary: The analysis explores what reduces recidivism and documents that thirty years of research has produced a body of evidence that clearly demonstrates rehabilitation programs work. The report finds that a variety of programs, properly targeted and well-implemented, can reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.

The Impact of Hawaii’s HOPE Program on Drug Use, Crime and Recidivism  •  PEW Center on the states + National Institute of Justice • 2009   [This is a brief of the report.] 

Offender Accountability Act: Final Report on Recidivism Outcomes  • Drake E.K., et. al., Washington
State Institute for Public Policy • January 2010  •  Summary: This report explores recent reductions in recidivism following the adoption of the Offender Accountability Act (OAA) by the Washington State Legislature. State policymakers adopted the OAA in 1999, which affects how the state administers community supervision to adults with felony convictions. 

Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates • Washington State Institute for Public Policy • October 2006   

Recidivism: The Effect of Incarceration and Length of Time Served •  Lin Song and Roxanne Lieb. Washington State Institute for Public Policy •  September 1993  •  Summary: This study finds that the effect of incarceration (versus other sentencing options) and sentence length on recidivism is complex. For some formerly incarcerated persons, incarceration and longer confinement seem to increase the risk of recidivism. For other formerly incarcerated persons, the likelihood of re-offense will either be unaffected or reduced by longer terms of incarceration. Furthermore, early-release programs do not appear to affect overall recidivism rates. 

Three-Year Recidivism Tracking of Offenders Pariticipating in Substance Abuse Treatment Programs  • State of Texas Criminal Justice Policy Council • 1999  [lower recidivism rates tracked and documented]

Final Wrongful Convictions Report • NY State Bar Assocn Task Force • April 2004   


Opinion "My Turn" Arizona Republic, June 8, 2012 •  Op Ed piece by Yours Truly, "Legislators need attitude change on prison reform."   Published in print, but not available online.   This document contains the opinion published by the Republic.

Lawmakers Oppose Relaxing of Prison Sentences
  •  Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services for EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE  •  November 17, 2010 •  Summary:  Some influential Arizona legislators and the Governor's spokesperson have expressed opposition to any sentencing statute changes following the Sentencing Committee Hearing of November 17, 2010.

Rough Justice, Crime and Punishment in America
 • THE ECONOMIST • July 22, 2010 
Too Many Laws and Too Many Prisoners, Never in the Civilized World have So Many Been Locked Up for So Little • THE ECONOMIST • July 22, 2010  

Arizona  Budget Woes Could Affect Criminal Sentencing  • THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC , Paul Davenport, AP •  November 9, 2010  

Swift and Certain: Hawaii's Probation Experiment  •  GOVERNING, John Buntin  •  October 31, 2009  •  Summary: A look at the dramatic changes in recidivism brought about by Judge Steven Alm of Hawaii who instituted random testing with immediate sanctions for test failure, working with drug offenders on probation with numerous violations. A discussion about the history of Judge Alm's efforts and sustained success with this program, in Hawaii, now called the HOPE program.  A few other jurisdictions have had some difficulty implementing this model with the same success, as they encounter political and judicial resistance.


Arizona's Private Prisons: The Public's Problem, a quality assessment of Arizona's private prisons  •  February 2012 • American Friends Service Committee, Tucson, Arizona.   

Private prisons not saving us money - so why do we still have them?  •  August 17, 2012  •  The Tucson Citizen

Private Prisons Found to Offer Little in Savings  •  May 18, 2011  •  The New York Times

Too Good to Be True, Private Prisons in America  •  January 2012  •  The Sentencing Project

Banking on Bondage, Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration  •  November 2011  •  the ACLU

Prison Privatization: A Meta-Analysis of Cost Effectiveness and Quality of Confinement Indicators  •  April 2007  •  University Of Utah Criminal Justice Center

Prison Privatizaton and the Use of Incarceration  •  September 2004  •  The Sentencing Project


On Dispensing Injustice • Judge Rudolph J. Gerber Arizona Court of Appeals • 43 Arizona Law Review 171  2001 
Former Arizona appellate court judge, Rudolph Gerber, with twenty-two years experience on the trial and appellate bench, argues in this piece that the criminal justice system as structured in Arizona perpetrates a number of injustices, including its "one size fits all" mandatory sentences, misplaced priorities and severities in substance abuse arena, and a counterproductive cost and deterrence scheme regarding imprisonment, among others. He argues that these practices lead to internal contradictions and inconsistencies in the system. Gerber suggests that due to political concerns, legislators are incapable of fashioning a truly just criminal justice system and that others should take over its management.

Report on Arizona’s Pre-August 1973 Life-Sentenced Inmates • Arizona Justice Project • 2010  

2010 Arizona Criminal Code Sentencing Provisions •  Arizona Supreme Court  •  2010


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