Projects and Events
Reforming Arizona Criminal Justice
Criminal justice reform is a frequent topic of conversation in Arizona, and for good reason. In a nation that leads the world in incarceration, Arizona has the country’s fifth highest imprisonment rate. And the situation is even worse than it seems. Because a disproportionate number of those trapped in the Arizona criminal justice system are also among the most vulnerable: the poor, the underserved, and minorities. So now, more than ever, Arizonans believe that the state needs to rethink its approach to criminal justice. But even with this groundswell of support for change, it’s proven difficult to find consensus on reforms. Here’s an idea: what if we ask some of the nation’s leading scholars to see what evidence-based solutions they would recommend for Arizona? Welcome to RACJ, a collaborative project from the Academy for Justice and the Arizona State Law Journal.
Guiding Points and Pitfalls for Reducing Reliance on Cash Bail
The Academy for Justice recently had the opportunity to work with an incoming District Attorney to formulate two best practice guides seeking to identify next steps, as well as potential pitfalls to avoid, on two specific topics based on available research. This report focuses on non-prosecution policies for drug offenses. Part I of this report provides a brief summary of current non-prosecution practices and the main findings from evaluations of one particularly successful program. Part II details recommended components of diversion alternatives and evidence supporting each component. Part III provides a brief summary of the budgetary and cost-relevant considerations of current programs of non-prosecution policies with diversion alternatives. Part IV details potential challenges, with recommendations for avoiding these pitfalls drawn from lessons learned from other jurisdictions. Lastly, the report concludes with recommended readings for prosecutors considering non-prosecution policies and a list of contacts that may serve as useful references in the development of the particulars of non-prosecution plans.
Recommendations and Resources for Prosecutors Considering Non-Prosecution Policies for Drug Offenses
Non-prosecution practices and policies have long been informally part of the fabric of the American criminal justice system, and more formal programs created by prosecutors have proliferated in modern times with growing and justified concerns about mass incarceration and mass punishment. Despite the widespread practice of punishing people who use drugs, criminological and public policy research indicate that such punitive measure are not effective in deterring drug use or in reducing drug supply and availability. Aware of this contradiction, prosecutors are increasingly pursuing non-prosecution policies for drug possession.
The most effective non-prosecution policies divert resources to treatment options and provide or connect individuals with resources to secure employment, housing, and other basic needs. Programs that take a holistic approach aimed at decreasing the imprisoned population, improving public health, ensuring public safety, and reducing drug-related fatalities have shown to be effective. Evidence-based research should inform the particular policies for particular jurisdictions, and this research highlights the importance of building a diversion alternative that provides treatment and other supported services for individuals when needed.
Virtual Symposium on COVID-19 and Vulnerable Populations
The coronavirus pandemic has powerfully and tragically harmed vulnerable peoples across the United States, from Native Americans in rural communities, to detainees in immigration detention centers and people incarcerated in confined spaces, to individuals with mental and physical disabilities. The Academy for Justice at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, in conjunction with the Arizona State Law Journal Online, is hosting this Virtual Symposium on COVID-19 and Vulnerable Populations to examine and challenge the pre-existing, health-harming legal and policy obstacles that are exacerbating the danger of the COVID-19 national health crisis to vulnerable populations.
On December 14, 2020, authors will discuss their ideas and essays in roundtable discussions followed by Q&A sessions open to the public, and a keynote presentation. The following topics will be discussed: Criminal Justice, Health Law, and Indigenous Peoples and Inequity.
The wide range of essays included in this symposium will be published and posted to the Arizona State Law Journal Online, available both before and after the symposium.
Reducing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: Arizona’s Statewide Study in Partnership with the HB2570 Legislative Study Committee - November 2020
The United States is now waking up to the fact that Indigenous Peoples have been oppressed by the dominant (non-Indigenous) culture for centuries. This oppression continues today and has led to a national and international crisis involving missing and murdered Indigenous Peoples (MMIP).
This report aims to tell a data-driven story about what is known so far about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) in Arizona and offers best-practices to reduce MMIWG. The goal of this work is to improve the lives and safety of Indigenous Peoples and communities. We thank the State of Arizona for recognizing the importance of this issue and being at the forefront in terms of legislation. The focus on women and girls is a direct mandate from Arizona’s MMIWG legislation and an initial step toward understanding and reducing murder and disappearance of all Indigenous Peoples in the state including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and Two Spirit people.
Guilty Minds - A Virtual Conference on Mens Rea and Criminal Justice Reform
Accidents may be inevitable, but creating accidental criminals is not; rather, that’s a choice, and one that the criminal justice system should never make. But unfortunately, the criminal justice system has made this choice, repeatedly, by failing to account for a defendant’s mens rea—Latin for “guilty mind”—in imposing criminal liability and scaling punishment across a number of contexts. The consequences of these unjust policies—more people going to prison, and for longer periods—are intolerable at any time. But they’re particularly troubling in a time of mass incarceration, widespread racial injustice, and a prison system overwhelmed by a global pandemic. So now more than ever, there’s a pressing need to bring attention to and reform our nation’s state and federal mens rea policies. That’s the primary goal of Guilty Minds—A Virtual Conference on Mens Rea & Criminal Justice Reform.
Policing: Race and Reform
We are deeply saddened by the recent death of George Floyd as well as those who came before him in a long line of similar injustices against individuals in the African American community, other communities of color, as well as the underserved. The misuse of police force, and the resulting protests that have erupted across our country, highlight the need for prompt, meaningful criminal justice reform. The Academy for Justice stands ready to share insights gleaned from years of rigorous academic research into the practice of policing, the role and effects of race on police decision making, and this issue of police accountability.
Our Policing: Race and Reform section is here to provide resources for those who wish to learn more about these and similar topics in this ongoing and important discussion. A compilation of materials, including research-based articles, can be found here.
The Controlled Substances Act at 50 Years
In February 2020, the Academy for Justice at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, together marked a half-century of drug policy under the Controlled Substances Act by co-sponsoring a conference that looked back at how the CSA has helped shape modern American drug laws and policies, and forward at the direction these laws could – and should – take in the next 50 years. The following ideas, documents and videos, are a result of that conference, looking at the CSA in light of our country's founding commitment to the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Reforming Criminal Justice
Reforming Criminal Justice is a four-volume report meant to enlighten reform efforts in the United States with the research and analysis of leading academics. Broken down into individual chapters—each authored by a top scholar in the relevant field—the report covers dozens of topics within the areas of criminalization, policing, pretrial and trial processes, punishment, incarceration, and release.
Transforming the Police
The Academy for Justice will host Transforming the Police, a one-day conference at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference is co-sponsored by Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. As an event, Transforming the Police will explore selected chapters of a new book by the same name. The event is designed both to bring attention to recent, important policing reform efforts across the nation and to celebrate the release of the book. These efforts and this book represent important steps forward in thinking about the police, their problems, and the reforms that every police agency should consider adopting.
COVID-19 Criminal Justice Challenges and Opportunities
The Academy for Justice is engaged in solutions for our criminal justice crisis in COVID-19.
A podcast collaboration between the Academy for Justice and Legal-Ease Podcasts to bring you a partisan free discussion on current issues affecting the criminal justice system, without convoluted legalese, a word for fancy lawyer talk.
MLK Justice for All, Here We Stand
A panel discussion with local leaders and nationally renowned scholars that do more than listen to the Dr. King's dream delivered each year. This panel discussion driven by the theme "Justice for All" is designed to invoke a plan of action through the examination of historical and statistical data, recommending future policy changes, justice reform, discussing recidivism, community policing and our ongoing efforts to build stronger relationships.
The Academy for Justice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University sponsored the Summit on Reentry concerns in our criminal justice system (Summit). Though Arizona’s three-year recidivism rate of 39 percent is lower than the national average of 50 percent, those returning to society after prison often lack the resources to establish themselves in the outside world (Wright, K., 2018, Arizona Town Hall, Criminal Justice in Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona). This Summit sought to provide insight on barriers to reentry that inmates face in Arizona and nationally, including reentry successes, failures, and where improvements can be made. Topics will range from barriers to housing and employment upon reentry, to mental health and drug treatment.
Everyone entering the Beus Center for Law and Society Building is required to wear a face covering and all guests need to have an appointment.