Real Criminal Justice Fairness and Reform

Experienced judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers and law enforcement all tell me the same thing: There is one system of justice for the rich, and another for the rest of us. Here in Arizona, we’ve lost our way. Our state has the fourth highest incarceration rate in the nation. We’ve abandoned our foundational principle of ‘justice for all’. The crisis of mass incarceration destroys families, disproportionately discriminates against people of color. It discriminates against our poor. It is biased against our LGBTQ community. It damages our economy. It tears at the moral fabric of our courts and our communities.

Reducing Arizona’s staggering prison population will require a multifaceted, bold, and creative approach. We have an immediate need for sentencing reform. Arizona’s strict laws require most inmates to serve a minimum of 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible for release. In a system over-crowded with non-violent offenders, this needlessly feeds a never ending demand for prison expansion. As your Representative, I will push for meaningful sentence reduction legislation. Additionally, we need to downgrade several types of drug offenses to misdemeanors. Arizona is the only state in the country where first-time marijuana possession can be classified as a felony.

photo credit: Patrick Breen AP

Meaningful reform cannot stop there: continued corporate tax cuts deliberately divert funds away from urgent social services Arizonans need, beyond public education. We need to fund and expand restorative justice programs, to focus on true rehabilitation of incarcerated Arizonans. We must prepare them for their return to their family responsibilities, their job and their role as an active citizen. These individuals deserve the right and opportunity to return to a welcoming community in which they have the tools and resources required to help them succeed and support themselves and their families. We must finally end Arizona’s cash bail system. We unjustly keep low-income people away from their families. When someone living in poverty is kept behind bars solely for their inability to pay, they are more likely to accept unfair plea deals, often admitting guilt for crimes they did not even commit. Under our current system, prosecutors are encouraged to over-charge defendants. This not our American commitment to fairness, honesty and decency. This is not justice. The movement for serious criminal justice reform has been building in Arizona. We’re close, and together we can get real legislative reforms across the goal line. I am prepared to be that voice and that focused force to make that happen now.

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