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My Recent Comments
Waiting for conservatives to finally see the elephant in the living room, is an act of frustration. However, when a conservative is finally right, ten years later, they are right. Tom Patterson brings out accurate concerns about the need to change sentencing concerns emanating from the Truth in Sentencing efforts in the 90's.
Ten years ago the indebtedness caused by Truth in Sentencing created an Arizona debt that will not be paid off for at least 100 years. If you put a 20 year old killer in prison for natural life, the computation works like this: 60 (the estimated life in years of a 20 year old) x 12 (months in a year x $25,000 = total cost. It's expensive to lock up people. The estimate for imprisonment costs becomes more convoluted with the variety of progressive sentences that arise from Truth in Sentencing for various crimes and the capacity of the inmate to do time. The more dangerous the inmate ... the higher the cost.
Even though Mr. Patterson elects to discuss only the options of post conviction offender management, he also fails to discuss other related issues such as: 1. sending seriously mentally ill offenders to prison; 2. diversion programs to work with people before they commit crimes; and 3. employment and educational options. Any combination of these three options potentially lower incarceration costs.
Incredibly, many criminals may already own or possess guns but they don't read the Arizona Revised Statutes until they get arrested, if they can read to begin with in their lives.
Criminal sentencing is not just about "tweaking" Truth in Sentencing with an effort to micromanage through the adjustment of specific sentences or technological methods. Broader cost estimates need to be made for the various crimes and various sentences to see what is more appropriate.
Finally, the issue of victims and victim rights is a necessary component of criminal sentencing. An offender's restitution for crimes committed is a necessary topic. Maricopa County has an excellent restitution program through the Superior Court system in progress. Where the restitution issue falls down is in the victim's capacity to sue an suspect, not yet convicted, civilly. Arizona Revised Statutes artificially limits victims to two years or after the suspect is convicted. In many, many homicides that stretches out to 30 years or more without justice. Civil suits against suspects is a critical aspect of criminal justice repeatedly shoved out of the equation.
The last effort to produce legislation with HB2664 on the Arizona Sentencing Commission and HB2374 on sentences decidedly were good efforts to address these issues but politically unacceptable. Probably, they were undercut by the conservative effort to use private prisons and the escape of inmates from the under-managed private prison in Kingman and the subsequent murders of innocent people.
Thank you, Mr. Patterson for waving Representative Cecil Ash's flag. However, before we go trouncing after Texas and Mississippi as models we need to look at justice in a broader sense than just another budget item conservatives need to cut. We need to look at the entire elephant in the living room not just the offending leg, trunk or tail. HB2374 was a first cut at that look. Feedback from prosecutors on sentence reductions for specific offenders did not support that bill. However, if the common ground is appropriate sentencing, prison population reductions, and funding, then it is all worth another try.Jul 25, 2011