Criminal Punishment System
It is absolutely clear that the criminal punishment system in the United States must be transformed. This system is broken - it feeds off of exploiting human beings and draining resources from our communities to fund courts, prisons, and jails.
Arizona is home to the sixth-largest prison population in the United States that is expected to expand by 52% over the next decade.
Arizona’s minority populations are also incarcerated at unprecedented and far disproportionate rates. In fact, 60% of Arizona's prison population comes from two, historically red-lined districts-- South Phoenix and South Tucson.
The results of incarceration are felt by the individuals serving time, as well as the families and community members who must shoulder the responsibilities of those disappeared. Removing individuals from home depresses the economy and negatively impacts children of individuals incarcerated. Incarceration does not actually impact crime rates or reduce recidivism. Worse, it costs the state over $1 billion each year. That money could be spent on education, healthcare and jobs training-- investments that actually create safe communities.
Although the effects of prison are well-known, many do not connect time in jail with a burgeoning prison population, nor are the devastating effects of even short-term incarceration widely known.
Researchers have found that jailing men and women for low-level offenses has grave, long-term consequences. “'When held 2–3 days, low-risk defendants are almost 40% more likely to commit new crimes before trial than equivalent defendants held no more than 24 hours.' . . . Low-risk defendants were even more likely to be re-arrested when they were held eight to fourteen days, and this remained true two years after the conclusion of the original case."
Why do a few days make such a difference? Because jailing people quickly undermines three mainstays of stability--"steady employment, housing, and family attachments." Undermining those mainstays is difficult to recover from, especially for individuals who cannot afford such disruptions and may lack other financial safety nets.
These findings are well-known by judges on the front-lines of this epidemic. They see many of the same people rotate through their courtroom, serving a life-sentence in increments.
At present, this incarceration machine remains largely unchecked. Despite being one of the largest states in the country, Arizona’s criminal justice reform community remains comparatively small. Only a few organizations are dedicated to fighting for criminal justice reform and no organization specifically focuses on changing the institutions that feed our prison population.
Justice That Works seeks to fill this much-needed gap by focusing on needed system changes that will (1) curb the growth of Arizona’s racialized mass incarceration system; (2) restore trust in the criminal justice system; and (3) provide needed public health and quality-of-life resources to traditionally underserved and marginalized communities.
The police are