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About Smart Justice

The ACLU of Arizona Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce Arizona’s jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racism in the criminal legal system. Our team consists of people who are currently and formerly incarcerated, people who have loved ones currently in prison, community leaders, and supporters.

Why Mass Incarceration Must End

Imprisonment is a brutal, costly, and ineffective response to crime that traumatizes incarcerated people and hurts families and communities, while failing to achieve public safety. Arizona has the fifth-highest incarceration rate in the United States that disproportionately impacting Black and Latinx people.

The Facts
  •  Since 2004, Arizona’s prison population has grown by 60%

  • On average, people released from Arizona prisons in 2016 served a 31% longer sentence than people released in 2009.

  • More than one in five individuals in Arizona prisons is serving time for a drug-related offense.

  • In 2019, nearly 10% of people in prison were there just for the simple possession of drugs for personal use. 

  • According to a report by, Hispanic people comprised only 31% of Arizona’s state population in 2017 but 37% of people admitted to prison.

  • Black people were overrepresented at an even higher rate, comprising only five percent of the state population but 13% of prison admissions.

  • In three decades, Arizona’s general taxpayer fund spending on prisons has grown 241 percent. In 2019, Arizona spent more than $1.3 billion of taxpayers’ money on prisons. That’s more than we spend on higher education.



The ACLU of Arizona advocates at the state Capitol for earned release credit legislation that will allow people to earn time off their prison sentence.


The ACLU of Arizona works to reform the punitive culture of county attorneys’ offices by taking legal action, demanding transparency, educating voters, and encouraging local elected county attorneys to reimagine the powerful role they play in the criminal legal system.


The ACLU of Arizona is working to end the criminal legal system’s reliance on cash bail and to dramatically reduce pretrial detention while combating bias and systemic racism in the pretrial process.


The ACLU of Arizona is currently working to reduce our state’s incarceration rate by advocating for policy change that would make simple drug possession a misdemeanor, not a felony.

To learn more about the ACLU of Arizona, visit

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