Austin— Today, Right on Crime, an initiative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, released a policy perspective on mandatory drug sentencing in Arizona—All Talk and No Action: Arizona’s Mandatory Drug Sentencing. Arizona has some of the strictest mandatory drug sentencing laws in the country, yet the research shows that mandatory prison time does not reduce crime or drug use—in fact, mandatory sentencing can make both worse.

“States such as Texas carry very few mandatory minimums, particularly for first-time offenders and have not seen an increase in crime due to the lack of these sentencing schemes,” said Greg Glod, director of state initiatives for Right on Crime. “In fact, Texas’ property and violent crime rates are lower than Arizona’s. Criminals need to be punished for their wrongdoing. However, mandatory minimums do not protect our streets, and can deprive addicts the treatment and connections to their neighborhoods they need to stop their criminal activity.”

Report highlights include:

  • Many mandatory minimum sentencing laws, particularly for drug offenses, were created to address problems of drug use, abuse, and drug-related criminal offenses.
  • For drug distribution, Arizona’s drug offenders stay in prison an average of four to five years. The national average for a distribution offense is 15 months.
  • Mandatory prison schemes can be triggered in a number of ways, primarily by quantity of drug or multiple offenses. Arizona’s threshold drug amounts that trigger mandatory drug sentencing are low.
  • Prison may be appropriate for some drug offenders, but often, Arizona judges’ hands are tied in trying to make a determination on an appropriate sentence due to mandatory sentencing laws.
  • Safety valves are an exception to mandatory sentencing whereby courts can bring about individualized justice in instances where the court deems a mandatory sentence to be inappropriate.

“As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects of Arizona’s current drug sentencing scheme,” said Kurt Altman, state director of Arizona Right on Crime. “Recently, President Trump signed The First Step Act, which expanded the current ‘safety valve’ at the federal level. Arizona should enact similar legislation that allows judges’ discretion to appropriately sentence individuals for their particular crime and circumstances for the betterment of public safety.”

For the full paper, please visit:
https://files.texaspolicy.com/uploads/2019/03/04124602/2019-PP-CEJ-Glod-Mandatory-Drug-Sentencing.pdf