Study: Sentencing laws may have prevented a million crimes

January 05, 2012

A new report by a state prosecutors’ organization suggests truth-in-sentencing laws have prevented crime and saved taxpayer money.  But sentencing reform advocates say other factors have also played a role.  KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports.

 PAUL ATKINSON: The study by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council examined the outcomes of more than 288,000 inmates released from 1985 to 2010.  Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery says violent and repeat offenders sentenced under truth-in-sentencing laws were 2 to 3-percent less likely to reoffend.

 BILL MONTGOMERY: “Arizona’s sentencing statutes are effectively incarcerationg the right portion of the criminal population and doing so that is also contributing to a reduction in crime.”  

 PAUL ATKINSON: The study estimates the states’ sentencing laws may have helped prevent a million crimes and saved hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.  ASU law professor Carissa Byrne Hessick hadn’t read the full 500-page study yet, but says sentencing is one of many factors that may lead to a reduction in crime.

 CARISSA BYRNE HESSICK:  “The state of Arizona only has so much money to deal with crime.  And it can be that keeping people in prison longer is an effective way to fight crime.  But, there are a number of studies that suggest having more police on the street is the most effective way of stopping crime.”  

 PAUL ATKINSON: Byrne Hessick says Arizona’s criminal justice system can always be improved.  But, members of the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council say the study proves that current sentencing laws are working.

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