Arizona’s Crime Rate Reflects the State’s Investment in Public Safety

Written by Administrator
Tuesday, 13 August 2013 16:14
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In light of the announcement by the US Attorney General that the federal sentencing minimums are an expensive response to minor crimes, the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council once again takes this opportunity to ensure that the public is accurately informed of the makeup of our state prison population. In the series of reports in 2010 and 2012 analyzing the actual prison population we have clearly shown that the right people are in prison for the right reasons.

People have sought to reduce prisons costs by making assumptions about the criminal justice system in general and the nature of the state’s prisoners in particular. Our report refutes those assumptions and in fact proves once and for all that the right people -repeat, violent offenders rather than low level drug possessors- are in prison for the right reasons. Perhaps it is costly, but frankly public safety is the highest calling of government and is worth the investment.

The public needs to be up to date on the facts about Arizona’s prison population:

  • Since the 1994 implementation of Arizona’s Truth-in-Sentencing (TIS) laws requiring criminals to serve at least 85% of their sentence, there was a 17.7% drop in reported crime over a fifteen year period.
  • Arizona’s crime rate fell 38.5% from 2002 to 2010; convictions for violent crimes are increasingly the predominate category: more than 95% of inmates are violent and/or repeat felony offenders.
  • These are more violent criminals than in the past as evidenced by actual convictions/criminal histories.
  • The category of first time offenders is actually artificially increased – not decreased -- by the fact that more than half of those in this group have committed a prior offense, but have pled down to a “first offense.”
  • These numbers reflect the success of diversion programs, substance abuse treatment, probation and other prison alternatives that have prevented low-level offenders from transitioning to full time criminal careers.
  • Since 2005, 3100 repeat offenders were incarcerated instead of being out committing an average of just under one felony per month. Using an average prison sentence of 33 months, that equals roughly 98,038 additional crimes prevented in Maricopa County alone. 90% of those would likely have been property crimes costing around $1,900 each and 10% likely violent offenses at $20,000 each. So, not only are we safer, we’ve also saved roughly $363.7 million.

Let us not make the mistake of transferring Mr. Holder’s assumptions to the State of Arizona.