After decades of prison growth, Arizona today has the fourth highest imprisonment rate in the country, meaning it puts more people in prison per capita than any other state — except for Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi.2 This growth has come with a hefty price tag. Arizona’s bloated prison population costs taxpayers over $1 billion each year without making the state safer.3
The size of Arizona’s prison population is largely due to its punitive sentencing laws. Arizona is one of only three states in the country that requires everyone in prison to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, regardless of their behavior and readiness for release.4 Unsurprisingly, people in Arizona spend far longer behind bars than the national average, despite the fact that long prison sentences are ineffective as a crime control measure.5 At the same time, these long prison terms take Arizonans out of workforce and place emotional and financial burdens on the families of those incarcerated. People convicted of drug crimes in Arizona spend 40 percent longer in prison than the national average. For property crimes, people in Arizona spend almost twice as long in prison.
HB 2270 would allow people to earn time off their sentences for following the rules and participating in programming. People convicted of crimes not designated as dangerous in statute would be able to earn an additional 35 percent off their sentences. Most others could earn an additional 10 percent off their sentence. States across the country, including Mississippi (in 2009)6 and Louisiana (in 2017)7 have passed similar reforms, as well as the federal government as part of the “The First Step Act” (2018).8