Drug possession accounted for 9.6% of Arizona’s prison population in 2019 – that’s more than 4,000 people costing taxpayers $291,750.69 per day. Yet, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry’s own data shows that incarcerated folks are not getting the help that they urgently need. Of the people in prison for any crime, 78% have a moderate to intense need for substance use treatment, yet only 1.8% are receiving it.
In many cases, a person’s first two drug possession offenses result in probation. But even without a prison sentence, a felony conviction can dismantle someone’s life because of the collateral consequences of a felony record. This impacts a person’s ability to obtain a job, housing, and more. Now barred from essential resources, it is no surprise that the risk of reoffending increases, potentially leading to prison time.
DRUG POSSESSION ACCOUNTS FOR
of Arizona's Prison Population in 2019
of incarcerated people in our state
taxpayer dollars a day
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. We must reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder. Treating possession as a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, will help us do that.