Arizona currently spends over one billion tax dollars ($1,000,000,000) annually incarcerating individuals in the Arizona Department of Corrections. At any given time, there are over 42,000 inmates that we house, feed and care for in ADOC. Of those inmates, roughly 80% suffer from a significant history of substance abuse. That means almost 34,000 struggle with drug use and need help. At any given time, less than 3% of those identified individuals are receiving substance abuse treatment. 75% of all inmates demonstrate symptoms consistent with significant mental health issues, yet just over 10% are involved with “self-improvement” programs. Combine these facts with the additional fact that within 9 years of release from prison, 5 out of 6 inmates will be re-arrested. What we know is this: what we have been doing simply isn’t working. It was none other than Albert Einstein who told us doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

What I know is this: It is time to reconsider how we do business. We will always need prisons.  There are those that pose such a significant risk to our community that we are morally obligated to separate them from society. There is also a much larger group of individuals who choose to violate our laws and societal norms, but do not pose the same inherent risk to our people. We have tried to merely incarcerate our way out of this criminal mindset, but the results speak for themselves. We have created a generation of young people destined for disenfranchisement that have only learned pain and hardship and may not have known, and were not raised, by their parents. Yet, we expect for them to lift themselves out of generational poverty and turn their backs on the only life they have ever known. 

Criminal Justice Reform is our opportunity to take a new look at an age old problem. To be reflective and to learn from the trials and tribulations of our forefathers, but focus on the prospective, moving forward. This country was founded on the principle that every person is entitled to the God given right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. As your Senator, I will fight for each and every one of you to ensure that your rights are not diminished. We will hold those that harm us accountable, but we will also work together to lift up those that need our help. By focusing on common sense reforms that empower the individual to better themselves, we, as a society, will give each and every one of us the opportunity to prosper. As the great Ronald Reagan once said, a rising tide lifts all boats. Economic opportunity and prosperity is the antidote to a poisonous life of crime. Instead of locking everyone up to garner public safety, let us focus on ensuring everyone is provided with the tools and training to become self-sufficient and self-reliant. Let me work as your Senator to effectuate Criminal Justice Reform by empowering and lifting people up. Let us work together to find a new way to solve an age old problem.  

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