Arizona’s budget priorities are backwards. This year, the Arizona State Legislature passed, and Governor Brewer approved, a $50 million plan to build 500 new maximum-security prison beds. But Arizona’s prison population is not growing. In fact, it decreased last year and the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) projects zero growth in the adult prison population for the next two years.
Like other states across the country, Arizona’s budget reflects severe cuts to essential services and agencies across the board. How does Governor Brewer plan to pay for 500 new maximum-security prison beds? The current state budget takes $50 million from the mortgage crisis settlement fund that was intended to help communities devastated by foreclosures. Those millions of dollars then get moved to the state’s general fund, and suddenly, the state has $50 million for 500 new maximum-security prison beds.
Maximum-security prisons in Arizona have a horrible track record. The conditions are so abysmal that the ADC is currently facing a class-action lawsuit for its gross failure to provide necessary medical and mental health care for prisoners in these facilities. Meanwhile, rates of mental illness are much higher in these facilities than in other ADC facilities. Rates of suicide have skyrocketed, as have assaults and homicides. Maximum-security prisons do not make Arizonans more secure—they make us less secure.
Arizona is "Maxed Out." Arizona needs foreclosure prevention, consumer protection, and reinvestment in social services and our communities.
Keep the mortgage settlement money where it belongs and tell Governor Brewer to shelve her plans to build 500 harmful and unnecessary maximum-security prison beds.