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Arizona

Arizona’s population has doubled in the last 30 years, but the state’s prison population has increased tenfold, from 3,377 inmates in June 1979 to 40,477 inmates in June 2010. 1

In December 2008, Arizona became the first state to implement performance-based adult probation funding pursuant to Senate Bill 1476. 2 Under this incentive-based approach, probation departments receive a share of the state’s savings from less incarceration when they reduce their revocations to prison without increasing probationers’ convictions for new offenses. Probation departments are required to reinvest the additional funds in victim services, substance abuse treatment, and strategies to improve community supervision and reduce recidivism.

In 2009, the first year of its incentive funding plan, Arizona saw a 12.8 percent decrease in revocations of probationers to prison, including decreases in all but three of the state’s 15 counties. 3 There was also a 1.9 percent reduction in the number of probationers convicted of a new felony. 4 In Mohave County, the probation department in 2009 reduced its total revocations by 101 and the percent of its probation caseload revoked for a new felony dropped from 4.6 to 1.1 percent. 5 This saved the state $1.7 million in incarceration costs that otherwise would have been incurred and Mohave County officials are expecting the state to fulfill its end of the bargain by appropriating 40 percent of the savings to the County in the next budget.

How did Mohave County achieve these results? In short, they implemented evidence-based practices – those techniques that research has shown reduce the risk of criminal behavior. Assistant Probation Chief Alan Palomino noted: “First we looked at our revocation process and at who we were revoking. There were a lot of technical violators who missed appointments or were just not doing exactly what was required of them on their probation. We looked at ways to motivate them toward cooperation and buying into their own probation process.” 6

The enhancements in Mohave County to their approach to probation included:

Training probation officers to utilize motivational interviewing, which is a method of therapy that identifies and mobilizes the client’s intrinsic values and goals to stimulate behavior change. Motivation to change is elicited from the client, and not imposed from without. It is assumed that ambivalence or lack of resolve is the principal obstacle to be overcome in triggering change. In an example of motivational interviewing, an officer may ask a probationer questions designed to elicit self-motivational statements such as, “What are you afraid might happen if things continue as they are?” and “What might be some advantages of changing your behavior?” 7 Motivational interviewing has been designated by the National Institute of Corrections as one of eight evidence-based practices that contribute to reduced recidivism. 8

Separating the minimum-risk offenders from the medium- and high-risk populations and varying supervision and caseload levels for each group, with one officer handling minimum-risk offenders in each city within the county.

Better identification of the needs of each offender such as substance abuse programs, educational programs, and anger management.

Implementing Moral Recognition Therapy, which is a cognitive educational program that helps probationers understand that their own choices have put them into their situations and become accountable for their actions.

Immediate consequences for violations and positive accolades for accomplishments.

Despite this progress, Arizona policymakers are looking at additional options for improving their criminal justice system. They are facing both a budget crisis and a September 2010 projection by the state corrections department that 8,500 new prison beds will be needed by 2017 at a construction cost of $974 million, not including operating costs of well in excess of $150 million a year. 9

Results-Oriented Solutions for Probation Funding

Right on Crime | May 3, 2019
Right on Crime policy analyst Michael Haugen examines various performance-based probation funding models across the country, which base their formulas upon the ability of probation departments to expand supervision…

All Talk and No Action: Arizona’s Mandatory Drug Sentencing

Right on Crime | March 5, 2019
Right on Crime’s Greg Glod, Director of State Initiatives, examines Arizona’s broad, and often confusing, mandatory drug sentencing laws. While many mandatory minimum sentencing laws, particularly for drug offenses,…

Two thumbs up: Not an ordinary night at the movies

Kurt Altman | October 11, 2018
Picture this: It’s 5:45 on a Wednesday night.  Catering and bar service are in place.  Students, professionals, and community members are cautiously entering the building to make sure they…

Arizona is filling its prisons with ‘folks we’re just mad at’

Right on Crime | September 28, 2018
This article by Pat Nolan, the director of the American Conservative Union Foundation Center for Criminal Justice Reform and a Right on Crime signatory, originally appeared in Arizona Capitol…

Less is more when it comes to putting people in jail

Kurt Altman | March 16, 2018
This article by Kurt Altman originally appeared in Arizona Capitol Times, March 16th, 2018. As someone who has lived in Phoenix since the early 1990s, I have always had…

Arizona is Making Sausage

Kurt Altman | February 20, 2018
I was told once that if you like the law and you like sausage, you should never experience the making of either.  I was told this at a cook…

Breakfast Briefing Kicks off Conversations for Reform in Arizona

Kurt Altman | January 12, 2018
Arizona legislative session opened Monday, January 8th but it really got moving today, January 11th, for criminal justice reforms in the state.  Right on Crime hosted a legislative briefing…

A Fox in Charge of the Hen House

Kurt Altman | November 20, 2017
I have written about it before—HB2477—a major reform to the civil asset forfeiture process in Arizona that was passed by legislators and signed by the Governor. Amongst the many…

Townhall Interviews Kurt Altman on Conservative Criminal Justice Reform

Right on Crime | October 3, 2017
In this interview with Townhall, Right on Crime’s Arizona State Director, Kurt Altman, gives the rundown on conservative criminal justice reform. As Kurt outlines, Right on Crime’s top priority…

Felony – The Scarlet F

Kurt Altman | August 31, 2017
Imagine this: You’re 18 years old, out with a couple buddies, experimenting with marijuana and you’re arrested and charged with a felony. Or worse yet, maybe it was “wax”…

At Least I Can Cut Hair

Kurt Altman | July 12, 2017
He was handcuffed in the front of his body and before the U.S. Marshals took him out of the courtroom he was able to put his hands on my…

The 2477 to Yuma

Kurt Altman | July 5, 2017
In 1957, a classic Western film starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin was released – 3:10 to Yuma.  It was remade in 2007 with super star actors Russell Crowe…
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