What is going on with Arizona criminal justice reform?

arizona criminal justice reformTwo buzzword phrases float around the Capitol every year: “criminal justice reform” and “tough on crime.” These bills are floated every year in Arizona and many on both sides pass. “Tough on crime” bills typically revolve around increasing penalties for crimes or stripping away certain qualifications for probation. “Criminal justice reform” is a large umbrella phrase that could attempt to change a variety of things: modifying sentencing for minor drug crimes, create easier access to probation and parole, or ease the burdens on criminals for certain administrative procedures. Below are two “criminal justice reform” and two “tough on crime bills” that made their way to the Arizona Legislature in 2018.

Criminal Justice Reform
SB 1496 – Signed into Law
This bill eases the process for inmates to obtain access to transition programs into the community. Currently, the state provides eligible inmates with transition services in the community up to 90 days. Either the state administers these programs or the state connects with nonprofit organizations. This bill revises the requirements for an eligible inmate. This bill requires that inmates, who are not serving concurrent sentences of a separate offense, to be eligible and enter a transition program if they have been convicted for possession or use with marijuana, a dangerous drug, a narcotic drug, or drug paraphernalia. This bill also prohibits the Department of Corrections from excluding an eligible inmate because they do not have a place to reside before release.

HB 2356 – Signed into Law
Currently, Arizona law allows a juvenile court to retain jurisdiction over a child until the child turns 18. This bill would require a juvenile court to retain jurisdiction over a person who is at least 17 years old and who has been adjudicated delinquent, until the person turns 19. This type of law is called “extended jurisdiction.” This would allow juvenile court to administer services like job training and assistance for finding employment up until the juvenile’s 19th birthday. It also allows a person between the ages of 18 and 19 who has been adjudicated delinquent and who is charged with a non-dangerous offense to be detained in the juvenile detention center.

Tough on Crime

HB 2241 – Died in Senate
This bill would have enhanced the sentence for a person convicted of a crime involved with heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, or fentanyl mimetic substances. These crimes include possession for sale, possession of equipment or chemicals for manufacturing, manufacturing, or transport for sale. This bill also would establish a range of 5-15 years for a first offense and a range of 10-20 years for a second offense. These persons would also be ineligible for probation, pardon, or release on any basis until specific conditions are met. This bill was clearly in response to the increasing use and selling of opioids and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
HB 2248 – Signed into Law
Currently, Arizona has a process regarding screening for a sexually violent person (SVP). A state agency must determine if a person is an SVP and then file a petition with the county attorney. A judge is required to determine at a hearing that there is probable cause to believe a person is a SVP. This will then trigger a 120 day timeline for a trial to determine if a person is a SVP where a court must determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the person is an SVP. Arizona currently has several conditions they consider in the SVP screening process. This bill would add to the list of conditions to include a defendant who was convicted of a sexually violent offense or found guilty but determined insane for a sexually violent offense.