Arizona is one of only a few states in which all people in prison are required to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence regardless of the severity of the crime or the positive progress they’ve made in prison. People are given no opportunity to earn time off their sentences for good behavior or taking part in rehabilitative programs like drug treatment or education classes. This contributes to Arizona having the fourth highest incarceration rate in the nation. Our outdated sentencing laws are costly, ineffective, and do not make us any safer. People in Arizona prisons are being punished more harshly than people convicted of the same crimes in other states. Arizona lawmakers had a chance during the 2019 legislative session to fix the problem by passing an earned release credit bill. The bill would have allowed people in prison to earn early release credits giving them an incentive to take part in programs that would help them be successful as they reintegrate into society. The bill died before even receiving a hearing because Rep. John Allen, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, ignored the overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill. Our fight continues. It’s time to bring Arizona in line with the rest of the country and sensibly reform our extreme sentencing laws to allow people who pose little risk to society to earn time off their sentences so they can be reunited with their families sooner.
Dawn Curtis is a mother of three who served five years in prison. While she was incarcerated, her children began struggling with addiction. Despite the progress Dawn made, she had no opportunity to earn early release. Dawn supports earned release credit legislation because it would allow mothers like her to earn a reduced sentence and make it back home to their kids sooner.
Virginia Mireles served more than six years in prison for a petty property offense. Virginia was given no opportunity to earn an earlier release. She believes if she would have had this opportunity, she might have been able to stop her son from developing an addiction to drugs. Virginia supports earned release credit legislation because it would give people in prison a goal to work toward in order to better themselves during their incarceration.
Carmen and Nicole Hreniuc are waiting for their son and brother, Tommy, to come home from prison. Carmen says her family never expected Tommy to receive such a long sentence. Tommy takes all of the educational classes he can in prison and is working, but because of Arizona’s extreme sentencing laws, he has no opportunity for an earlier release. Carmen and Nicole support earned release credit legislation because it would give Tommy and other people in prison an incentive to start the road to rehabilitation so they can be reunited with their families sooner.