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State narrows property list for budget financing

All or parts of four prison complexes are among a dozen state properties on a shortened list of facilities being proposed for sale-leaseback refinancing to help balance Arizona’s state budget.

Thirty-two properties had been considered, but an outline released Nov. 10 by the Department of Administration listed only 12, including the Florence, Safford and Yuma prison complexes.

Other properties included the Department of Public Safety headquarters, two legislative buildings, the state mental hospital and the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. All of those properties are in Phoenix.

Under the proposed refinancing, the properties would “nominally” be sold but then leased back by the state. The state would raise $737 million and pay it back over the 20-year term of the deal.

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  1. The legislature has sadly and irresponsibly failed to reduce the need for prison beds during the current fiscal crisis. Instead, just because one or two legislators — with no authentic criminal justice experience to speak of — reviewed some files of some prisoners who might have been eligible for early release if a proposal to modify the criminal code to permit such releases had been approved — decided on their own that the proposal was “off the table.” In years past, as well as under previous criminal codes, when prison overcrowding became a crisis (as it is today and has been for years), the prison director was authorized to select low risk, well-behaved and motivated prisoners with good family and community support for early release. Statistics show that the recidivism rates of these individuals was no different than those released after full completion of their sentences.

    It is absurd that proposals for early release of non-dangerous, non-violent and/or first-time-in-prison offenders, or proposals to place such offenders on home arrest, or proposals to reinstate parole eligiblity for some low-risk offenders are not a serious part of the “package” of ideas being considered by legislators on either side of the aisle.

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