With over 42,000 inmates in state prisons, Arizona has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. To address the crisis, Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a bill that will allow individuals convicted of possession of drugs or paraphernalia the possibility of early release.
The person could earn 3 days of release credits for every 7 served if:
- They were sentenced for possessing or consuming marijuana, a narcotic drug listed in A.R.S. 13-3407(A)(1), or a A.R.S. 13-3408(A)(1); and
- They were not convicted of a violent or aggravated felony in the past
To qualify, the inmate must have served at least 70% of their time (early release for drug possession offenses was previously only a possibility if the individual served 85% of their sentence). Additionally, they must complete a drug treatment or "self-improvement” program offered by the Arizona Department of Corrections.
Early Releases Under the New Law
The law went into effect immediately after the governor approved it and applies to current and future drug possession cases. Under the new legislation, around 7,000 inmates could qualify for early release. In June of 2019, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced that 101 inmates had been discharged.
Inmates who meet the requirements for early release must fulfill the remainder of their sentence under community supervision.
Although some have criticized the new law for not doing enough for the thousands of other inmates in Arizona’s prisons, it marks a step toward criminal justice reform. Individuals whose only mistake was the possession of a controlled substance now have the opportunity to re-enter society and reconnect with friends and family sooner.
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