2022 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
Arizona’s staggering incarceration rate was caused by decades of harsh laws that disproportionately criminalize people of color and those with fewer resources. That’s why advocating for criminal justice reform at the state Capitol is a crucial part of the ACLU of Arizona’s campaign for Smart Justice.
We support bills that reduce the prison population, and oppose bills that give police and prosecutors more power. Through this effort, our goal is to improve conditions for those in the criminal legal system, safely reduce Arizona’s prison population, and protect our communities from over-policing.
Drug Possession Defelonization
With overdose rates rising year after year, Arizona needs to adopt a public health approach to this crisis rather than using the same “War on Drug” scare tactics that have failed us for decades. It’s critical to reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder and treat possession as a misdemeanor, rather than a felony.
This session, we will be supporting legislation that defelonizes drug possession and will oppose any legislation that would increase the severity of penalties for drug use.
When a person is accused of a crime, it is a prosecutor, not the police, who decides whether that person will be charged with a criminal offense and the severity of the charges. Yet the public has no information on the critical decisions that they make.
Right now, law enforcement records and shares data about who is being arrested. On the other end, corrections records and shares data about who is incarcerated. However, there is an important data set that is missing – prosecutorial data. Opening this “black box” would help us understand what happens to people between arrest and incarceration and increase transparency in the criminal legal system.
We support legislation that increases transparency by requiring prosecutors to collect and share data.
Even after someone has completed all the terms of their sentence, they still face major barriers after incarceration. After prison, people experience severe prejudice in the job and housing markets and are too often barred from essential services that could otherwise help them rebuild their lives. Not only that, but there are policies and procedures in place that make rights restoration an extremely difficult process for those who pursue it.
In our state, rights restoration isn’t automatic or available to everyone – and formerly incarcerated people deserve better. We support legislation that would make rights restoration more accessible and comprehensive.
Bills to Watch
Bill numbers and ways to take action coming soon.