Shamefully, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world—and Arizona has the fifth highest incarceration rate in the country. In recent decades, Arizona’s prison population exploded from approximately 3,000 people in prison to more than 42,000.
But our criminal justice system—which disproportionately arrests and sentences people of color and working people while enriching the prison-industrial-complex—isn’t making our communities safer. In fact, it is needlessly tearing families apart and damaging our local economy by costing taxpayers more than $1 billion each year, preventing us from investing in critical priorities like education and social services for working families.
To ensure the safety and well-being of our community, we need to shift spending away from punitive measures and make transformational investments in eradicating poverty, ensuring access to quality healthcare, and creating a world-class education system in Arizona.
As a lobbyist representing Arizona’s food banks at our state legislature, I brokered a deal with legislators from both parties to successfully repeal an Arizona law that banned people with felony drug convictions from receiving food assistance. Thanks to that law, thousands of Arizonans are now able to put food on the table for their families and do not have to turn to petty theft or other crimes of survival simply to feed their families.
In office, I will continue to fight for a system that invests in our community’s safety and prosperity, not for-profit prisons.
Key points in my plan to transform our criminal justice include:
- Banning private prisons and detention centers: Currently, Arizona operates six private prisons in the state and four private immigration detention centers. Wealthy executives are getting rich off of incarcerating human beings in dehumanizing conditions. This is a morally bankrupt practice that must be outlawed. Which is why I would work to pass legislation to ban all private prisons and for-profit immigration detention facilities in the state.
- Abolition of cash bail: Our current cash bail rules mean we have two justice systems: one for the rich and one for everyone else. People who are unable to afford bail are detained for weeks or months as they await trial, often resulting in job less, evictions, and even child custody loss. Meanwhile, dangerous individuals with access to financial resources can buy their way to freedom. People who have not been convicted should not be held in jail simply because they can’t afford to pay bail. It’s time to end the cash bail system and instead create a new system that determines pre-trial detention based on whether a person poses a risk to public safety.
- Ending the war on drugs and mass incarceration: 70 percent of people admitted to Arizona’s prisons are sentenced for a non-violent crime. The vast majority of these nonviolent offenses are charges for drug possession. Let’s be clear: Drug addiction is a medical illness and we must use medical science—not incarceration—to treat addiction. But our state is doing the exact opposite. 78 percent of people currently in Arizona’s prisons have been assessed with substance abuse needs, but, shockingly, only three percent are receiving treatment. In office, I will fight to pass laws that people with substance abuse addictions are sent to rehabilitation facilities, not prisons.
- Holding police accountable: Nobody is above the law. Not politicians, not prosecutors, and not police. In office, I will push for legislation to end qualified immunity, allowing survivors of police brutality who have had their civil rights violated by law enforcement officials to sue them. I will also fight for new laws that will direct law enforcement officials to use force only as an absolute last resort. Additionally, I will fight for legislation that makes it easier for us to go after police officers who have improperly used deadly or excessive force. I will also work to repeal a recent Republican law that significantly weakens independent community oversight of local police departments and mandates that police oversight boards be run by police officers.
- Taking on prosecutorial misconduct: In addition to bringing police officers to justice, I will work to hold prosecutors accountable. There are nearly 1,500 police officers on “Brady lists” in Arizona—meaning that they are not considered honest enough to testify in court. But prosecutors routinely fail to disclose that an officer is on a Brady list during trial. In office, I will outlaw this practice and seek to revoke the law license of any prosecutor who engages in this behavior. I will also go after Arizona’s culture of prosecutorial misconduct, including prosecutors who manipulate evidence and withhold facts from defense attorneys during trial.
- Ending the death penalty: Arizona has just purchased hydrogen cyanide—the same chemical weapon used by Nazi Germany to kill millions during the Holocaust—in order to execute its own citizens. This is abhorrent. The death penalty has never been shown to deter crime. Indeed, government execution of citizens siphons resources away from the prosecution of other serious violent crimes. But above all, I oppose the death penalty because it is an affront to my Christian belief that all human persons are made in the image of God and are of infinite value. As such, I will push for legislation to outlaw the death penalty and ensure current inmates on death row instead receive life sentences.
- Restoring the rights of people with records: When a person completes their sentence and is released from prison, they should be given the resources necessary to rebuild their lives and become contributing members of society. That includes ensuring their civil rights are restored. But right now, the process to restore one’s rights is complicated, cumbersome, and expensive. In office, I’ll fight to ensure people with records have their rights automatically restored upon completing their sentence, regardless of whether they have outstanding fees or fines. I will also work to automatically expunge the records and restore the rights of all people with marijuana convictions. I will also advance legislation to offer people with prior marijuana convictions a $10,000 payment for having their freedom stolen and for being wrongfully caged in a violent prison.