2 Arizona Lawmakers Want To Focus On Prison Reform

Published: Friday, December 22, 2017 - 8:49am

Two state lawmakers hope to do what has proven politically impossible for decades: Convince colleagues to consider prison sentencing reform for non-violent offenders.

Republican Rep. David Stringer and Democratic Rep. Kirsten Engel want to find out why Arizona locks up a higher proportion of people than all but four other states.

Stringer said his experience makes him question whether many of the longer sentences, particularly for non-violent crimes, do more harm than good.

"Very young people are getting horrendous sentences. I mean, 10-year sentences for fairly minor drug stuff," Stringer said. "Not heavy dealing, Just kind of either possession or low-level dealing, they're getting years and years and years in jail. Anything more than two years in jail, you come out a changed man."

Part of the issue, Stringer said, is financial: The budget this year for the state Department of Corrections tops $1 billion.

Stringer said would he would focus on work release programs and rehabilitation.

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