Academy for Justice

Bridging the gap between academia and criminal justice reform

News Archive

GOP criminal justice reform advocate lays out ambitious 2020 agenda

October 2, 2019 - As the sentencing reform committee he chairs works on potentially landmark legislation for the next session, Rep. Walter Blackman is working on a handful of other criminal justice reform proposals that he hopes will lay the groundwork for what will most likely be a protracted fight.

Blackman hopes to pass legislation next session to create more diversionary programs that will keep people from being arrested for nonviolent crimes, create more programs with the corrections system aimed at cutting down on recidivism, provide more oversight for the Arizona Department of Corrections, and standardize the way that government entities in Arizona use to track and report criminal justice data.

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Sentencing reform committee begins work on new legislation

August 7, 2019 - A committee aimed at reforming Arizona’s strict criminal sentencing requirements held the inaugural meeting of what it intends to be a months-long process that will culminate with proposed legislation for the upcoming session.

Arizona’s “truth in sentencing” law, passed in 1994, abolished parole and requires prison inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Inmates can qualify for earned release credits that allow them to serve the final 15 percent of their sentences under community supervision.

A law enacted earlier this year, Senate Bill 1310, allows inmates who were convicted solely of drug offenses to qualify for early release after serving 70 percent of their sentences.

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ASU students organize art show to connect prison inmates to community

August 1, 2019 - Even as they are separated from their communities, the men who are incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence are finding a way to give back, with help from Arizona State University.

Two ASU students have organized a gallery show of art made by the men, and sales will benefit a nonprofit that provides art therapy to traumatized children.

“Inkcarcerated: Creativity Within Confinement” will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at the A.E. England Building at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

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Obama sends letter to prisoner he freed, who made the dean's list: 'I am so proud of you'

July 15, 2019 - President Barack Obama granted Danielle Metz clemency in 2016. Out of prison, she made the dean’s list in college. She wished she could thank Obama for his help.

In a story published Monday in USA TODAY, Metz expressed her gratitude toward the former president.

“You don't know what you did for me,” she imagined herself telling him. “I’m finally coming into my own. I made the honor roll.”

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Sentencing reform committee begins work on new legislation

July 5, 2019 - After serving seven years behind bars for securities fraud, Sue Ellen Allen walked out of Perryville Women’s prison in Glendale on March 19, 2009. But even as she walked away, prison followed her. Even as she tried to start a new life, she always had to “check the box” that said she had been convicted of a crime.
“You can move on with your life, you can try to move on, but you always have to check the box,” Allen said. “It never goes away. The idea of serving your time and paying your debt to society never ends, and it’s painful.”

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Ending Mass Incarceration: Ideas from Today’s Leaders

June 19, 2019 - How can we end mass incarceration in America? By now, the debate is over: our nation grossly over-incarcerates its people. The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population and nearly one-quarter of its prisoners. Astonishingly, if the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans were a state, it would be more populous than 16 other states. All told, one in three people in the United States has some type of criminal record. No other industrialized country comes close. This system grew over decades in plain sight, and only a broad and bold national response will end it. (PDF)

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Dignity For Incarcerated Women Florida - signed into law!

June 19, 2019 - Prior to last week, no law in Florida ensured incarcerated women had access to the feminine hygiene items essential to getting through a monthly period. But after countless women led by cut50's fierce Dignity Ambassador and renowned community activist Valencia Gunder stepped forward and shared their stories with lawmakers like Representative Shevrin Jones, Representative Amy Mercado, and Senator Jason Pizzo, things changed.

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Most US drug arrests involve a gram or less

June 17, 2019 - In the long-running television drama “Breaking Bad,” viewers watched the moral devolution of Walter White, a cancer-stricken high school chemistry teacher who tried to provide for the financial future of his family by cooking methamphetamine. He changed from a good man caught in a bad situation into a sociopathic offender who ruled over a crystal meth empire.
Walter White represents the sort of drug offender who justifies serious punishment. He earned enormous amounts of money by producing and distributing vast amounts of harmful drugs.

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Doing more time: Ex-felons face long odds, long wait to restore voting rights

May 7, 2019 - At a time of political transition in the country, when Republican dominance in right-leaning states like Arizona is being threatened by changing demographics, efforts in a number of states to more easily and quickly restore the voting rights of ex-felons could help tip the scales. The issue is one of several criminal justice proposals with broad bipartisan support across the country ahead of the 2020 election.

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Criminal justice reforms will require changes in culture, experts say

April 30, 2019 - More treatment, shorter sentences among recommendations at ASU panel. Crime is down in Arizona but more people are in prison, and confronting that issue will require a broad range of changes plus a lot of courage, according to a group discussion on criminal justice reform held on Tuesday by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

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Arizona Opioid-Blocking Program Proving Less Effective Than Hoped

October 8, 2019 - As the opioid crisis continues to ravage communities in Arizona and across the country, states are looking for ways to help people stay away from the dangerous substances, especially those who have run afoul of the law, in part, because of their addictions.

That means turning to commonly known treatments, like methadone, as well as a relative newcomer to the scene called Vivitrol, an injectable form of naltrexone that is used to block opioid receptors in the brain. State correctional departments across the country now provide Vivitrol shots to some prisoners upon their release.

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