In LD 9, difference is how to cut spending on prisons

2012-09-22T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T11:17:37Z In LD 9, difference is how to cut spending on prisonsBecky Pallack Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 22, 2012 12:00 am  • 

All three candidates running for the Arizona House in the new Legislative District 9, covering much of the north and northwest sides, say they'd try to cut spending on prisons to better fund education.

But they have different ideas about how to do it.

Prisons are the third-largest expense in Arizona's budget, behind education and health. The Department of Corrections appropriation is $976.4 million, about 11 percent of total state appropriations.

Ethan Orr, Republican

Idea: Improve prisoner re-entry programs to lower the number of people who return to prison.

Details: Orr favors a model used in Michigan, where nonviolent offenders spend eight months before re-entry in a separate facility for vocational training and job seeking.

Orr said he'd like to see people leave prison with "a couple job interviews or maybe even a job lined up, a place to stay, a bus pass and an actual game plan for success."

He said he would push to include such programs in request for proposals for private prisons.

Mohur Sarah Sidhwa, Democrat

Idea: Divert offenders ages 18 to 21 to house arrest or treatment programs instead of prison to save money.

Details: "I do not want to see our youth being incarcerated with mature adults," Sidhwa said. "They're very vulnerable."

She favors models used in Texas and New York, where alternatives to incarceration for young adults have helped lower the recidivism rate in those states.

Victoria Steele, Democrat

Idea: "We've got to see that an addiction is not a moral failing; it's a medical problem," Steele said.

Details: She supports funding more drug courts, which are alternative courts that include probation and treatment for nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems who plead guilty. She supports treatment for substance abuse as an alternative to or a complement to prison time.

She also supports better training for social workers, counselors, behavioral health technicians, court officials and law enforcement officers.

Arizona's prisoners

55%

are violent repeat offenders

10%

are violent first offenders

29%

are nonviolent repeat offenders

6%

are nonviolent first offenders

Source: Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at bpallack@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. On Twitter @BeckyPallack.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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