Turning the Corner: Opportunities for Effective Sentencing and Correctional Practices in Arizona


On February 1, 2011, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, a statewide not-for-profit membership organization of criminal defense lawyers, law students and associated professionals, released Turning the Corner: Opportunities for Effective Sentencing and Correctional Practices in Arizona, a report prepared by Justice Strategies' Director Judy Greene. With a state corrections budget of $1 billion dollars threatening cuts to education and other important human services, Turning the Corner points Arizonians to important reforms in other states that have reduced prison populations while maintaining public safety.

The trend in state prison population reductions that began in 2005 included 24 states by 2009. However, Arizona's prison incarceration rate went from 1 in every 749 persons in 1980 to 1 in every 170 by the end of June 2008. Its average annual prison-population growth rate between 2000 and 2008 was 5.1 percent, compared to a national average of 1.5 percent, giving Arizona the third highest incarceration rate of all states and the highest in the West.

Turning the Corner highlights the practices of four states – Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York – that have recently reduced prison populations by 5, 12, 19 and 19 percent, respectively, while seeing falling property and violent crime rates. The report also spotlights three other traditionally conservative states – North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi – that have revisited their sentencing practices, as well as the work of Maryland's Proactive Community Supervision (PCS) program that introduced evidence-based community supervision practices that produced a 42 percent lower rate of re-arrest for new crimes for program participants compared to traditional probation and parole methods. The work of these other states in improving sentencing and corrections practices can help Arizona introduce cost-effective alternatives that can help preserve the public purse and its safety.