FWD.us Statement on Governor Doug Ducey Vetoing Senate Bill 1334 and the Urgent Need to Address Arizona’s Imprisonment Crisis

WASHINGTON, DC – FWD.us State Policy Manager Emily Levett issued the following statement after Governor Ducey vetoed Senate Bill 1334, which the House previously approved unanimously and the Senate by a vote of 27 to 3:

“Senate Bill 1334 was a small but important step forward for Arizona’s criminal justice system, something the legislature recognized when the House approved the bill unanimously and the Senate by a vote of 27 to 3. We are deeply disappointed that Governor Doug Ducey vetoed this bill today. SB 1334 would have limited Arizona’s uniquely harsh practice of sentencing individuals under the repetitive enhancement when they have never before been convicted of a crime.

“The SB 1334 veto is part of a larger pattern of Arizona leaders rejecting common-sense criminal justice reforms. Fifteen bills that would have impacted Arizona’s bloated prison population died this year, with only two ever making it to Governor Ducey’s desk. With no meaningful criminal justice reform, Arizona has prolonged its 5th-highest-in-the-nation imprisonment crisis at the cost to families and local economies across the state.”

Arizona is in the midst of an imprisonment crisis. The state has the fifth highest imprisonment rate in the country, meaning it keeps more of its people in prison than almost any other state. In the past decade, while Arizona has doubled-down on failed “tough on crime” policies, a majority of states — 32 states — have enacted reforms and simultaneously reduced crime and imprisonment.

Even among other states with large per capita prison populations, Arizona stands out. Since 2000, Arizona’s imprisonment rate has grown by 20 percent, twenty times more than any of the other top 10 imprisoning states of 2000.3 While most of the top 10 states in 2000 have lowered their imprisonment rate — some by more than 20 percent — Arizona continues to imprison more and more people at great cost to taxpayers, families, and communities (see Figure 1, below). While a majority of states across America have taken serious steps towards addressing imprisonment and its damaging effects on families and economic growth, Arizona has made very little progress.

In the 2019 legislative session, 17 bills were introduced that would have helped reduce Arizona’s prison population, just one very small and modest policy, SB 1310, was signed into law. Twelve of these bills died because they never received an initial hearing in the House or Senate Judiciary Committees, chaired by Senator Eddie Farnsworth and Representative John Allen, respectively. Another two bills did make it out of House Judiciary and off the House floor, but were never heard in Senate Judiciary.

For more information on how Arizona’s criminal justice system continues to fall behind the rest of the nation and the specific bills that failed to make it to Governor Ducey’s desk this year, see our new brief, “Arizona in Crisis: A criminal justice system falling behind the rest of the U.S.

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