Committee To Study Expanding Earned Release Credits To More Inmates In Arizona Prisons

By Jimmy Jenkins
Published: Monday, June 17, 2019 - 7:34pm
Updated: Monday, June 17, 2019 - 8:01pm

Rep. Walter Blackman

Arizona state Rep. Walter Blackman has been appointed the chairman of the Earned Release Credits For Prisoners Ad Hoc Committee.

According to a letter from Arizona Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, “the committee shall study, gather input, and develop recommendations regarding the earned release credit system for prisoners, specifically whether and how the system could be reformed to allow additional credits to be earned by prisoners.”

The committee is made up of a bipartisan group of nine state representatives who will conduct their work this summer.

Blackman said the group would be focusing on House Bill 2270, legislation he introduced in January that never received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 2270 would have allowed people in state prisons to earn credit against their sentences with good behavior and participation in rehabilitative programming.

The bill would have changed state law so that nonviolent offenders could earn one day for every day served, while those convicted of a dangerous offense could earn one day for every three days served. People convicted of “a dangerous crime against children” would only be eligible to earn one day for every six days served in prison.

“We’re going to look for ways to make that bill better,” Blackman said, “thus beginning comprehensive prison reform in Arizona.”

Blackman said the committee would be an opportunity for all stakeholders to give their input on earned release credits.

Blackman said he wants to focus on existing programs offered in prison “to see if they have enough resources to implement those programs and if they don’t, find the shortfalls.”

Blackman said he would be looking outside of the prison system for partnerships to strengthen treatment for offenders with drug and alcohol addictions.

“We’re also going to be looking at those offenders that have been incarcerated because of sex trafficking issues,” Blackman said. “Should we have someone who was trafficked and pushed into the sex trade industry and arrested sitting in prison?”

Blackman says it will be important for the committee to focus on wraparound services for inmates who are being released.

“We need to make sure these folks can survive once they are out of prison,” he said. “Support services should begin inside of the prison system and end when the person is out of prison and on their own with continual check-in care.”

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