Prison Reform Advocates to Discuss Cost-Saving Alternatives to Incarceration at July 11 Forum in Tucson

Affiliate: ACLU of Arizona
June 29, 2009 12:00 am

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PHOENIX – Saying Arizona’s prison policies have led to high incarceration rates and government misspending, local prison reform advocates are urging community members to participate in a public dialogue on July 11 in Tucson on how to reduce crime and save taxpayer dollars.

The free public event, entitled “Getting Smart on Crime: How to Reduce Crime and Save Taxpayer Money,” is sponsored by the Southern Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Arizona and will explore harsh sentencing laws and incarceration spending related to both Arizona’s corrections system and the federal immigration detention system. Featured speakers are: Caroline Isaacs, Program Director of the Arizona program of the American Friends Service Committee, and Victoria Lopez, Immigrant Rights Advocate of the ACLU of Arizona.

The event will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 11 at the Quincie Douglas Branch of the Tucson Public Library, 1585 E. 36th Street, in Tucson. The event is free and open to the public. For more information call Mary-Carol Wagner (520.546.9668) or Esther Ramirez (520.908.0416) in Tucson or Mary Lunetta (602-650-1854 ext. 107) in Phoenix.

“In this time of severe budget cuts, hiring freezes, and massive cutbacks, Arizona must reexamine its criminal justice priorities and objectively evaluate the effectiveness of our current approach,” added Isaacs, who has been working on criminal justice reform issues in Arizona for the past 10 years.

Isaacs will address factors that have led to significant prison overcrowding, debunk the myth that harsh prison sentences are the most effective way to deter crime and provide concrete strategies on how to reduce costs to taxpayers, while producing greater public safety outcomes.

The dramatic growth in immigration detention in Arizona also will be discussed at the July 11th forum. There are currently 3,000 immigrants detained on any given day in Arizona. This number accounts for 10% of the detained immigrant population across the country. Many of these individuals are asylum-seekers, legal and long-time residents with family and community ties in the United States, and pose no security threat.

Although alternative programs are far more cost-effective than traditional detention, they’ve been long under-funded by Congress and under-utilized by DHS. In fact, according to Congressional findings, alternative programs contribute to more effective enforcement of immigration laws at far less cost (averaging $22/person per day) than for detention (averaging $95/ person per day). The ACLU’s Lopez will speak about how the indiscriminate detention of non-citizens is unnecessary, fiscally irresponsible and raises serious civil liberties concerns.

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