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Arizona prison capacity: shortfall or surplus?

prison bedArizona has either a shortfall of approximately 4,000 prison beds or a surplus of about 1,000 beds, with the difference based on whether more than 5,100 temporary beds are counted as part of the overall picture.

A legislative staff analysis of a Department of Corrections capacity report says the state prison system has an inmate population approaching 41,000 but a total of permanent beds approaching only 37,000.

The temporary beds provide space for the rest of the inmates. Those beds are placed in spaces such as tents and day rooms.

The Corrections Department say use of temporary beds can result in overcrowding, strain prison systems and impact state and inmate safety.

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  1. Concerned Citizne

    Arizona needs to seriously cut back its non-violent, aging, ill and dying inmates who were sentenced to decades under Arizona draconian mandatory minimum sentencing failed laws. The taxpayers cannot sustain a Corrections budget that outstrips the budget for education and building stronger communities, rather than tearing them apart.

    Time to get “smart on crime” and follow the successful example of conservative states who are making reforms, reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, getting rid of the Death Penalty — taxpayer boondoggle they cannot afford, and to put the money toward job training and rehabilitation. These conservative states have saved their taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

    When is Arizona top elected officials going to do what’s best for the people instead of letting the private prison corporations and special interests “control” you?

    We had enough of the mass incarceration of Arizona’s people with outdated laws the legislators have failed to address. Shameful.

  2. “It’s Not Just Federal Prisons: State Prisons Are a Mess, Too”

    The title of this post is the headline of this notable new National Journal piece. Here are excerpts:
    In Arkansas, there aren’t enough prison beds for all the inmates. Tasked with housing 14,753 people, the state’s prisons have fallen around 280 beds short, with 1,400 state inmates being held in county jails as of Monday. Arkansas’s state prison director told the corrections board that there are 300 beds ready for use, but it would cost $8 million to hire new employees and run the new facilities.

    Arkansas isn’t the only state with a bed problem: Arizona has been relying on temporary beds to make up for only having 37,000 beds for 41,000 inmates.

    When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to the American Bar Association about the economic and moral costs of the U.S. criminal justice system last week, he was mainly talking about federal prisons. But prisons at the state and local level aren’t in any better shape….

    If you need more proof of how bleak things are, just look at some of what’s happened in the last few weeks.

    On July 8, a hunger strike broke out in California prisons over a policy that allowed inmates associated with gangs to live in isolation for long periods of time…. When the strike began, it included almost 30,000 of the state’s 133,000 inmates. That number is down to around 130. On Monday, a federal judge ruled that California will be able to force-feed the remaining strikers.

    California’s prison problem is also fundamentally economic. In May, a judge ordered California to reduce its inmate population by 9,600 to prevent overcrowding. California unsuccessfully appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday said that California wouldn’t “do a mass release” and a spokesman said the administration is “working with the Legislature to avoid the prospect of inmate releases.” That could mean spending hundreds of millions of dollars to stem overcrowding. But even just releasing prisoners can come at a huge cost. According to the LAPD, it costs about $18 million to keep track of felons who are released from state prisons to the counties, and more than half of the thousands who are already released annually are eventually sent back to prison.

    Then there’s the violence. Five prisons have been placed on lockdown in Illinois in the last week for unrelated incidents after a wave of violence. That includes violence against prison guards. Then there’s the rise in suicides. In Washington, D.C., there have been four suicides at the Central Detention Facility in less than a year. In the last decade, there have only been eight suicides total at that facility. A Bureau of Justice Statistics report released this month shows a recent uptick in suicides at local prisons.

    Renewing focus on federal prisons is a start, but it doesn’t totally address all of the problems in the U.S. criminal justice system.

  3. Middle Ground Prison Reform, Inc. :: Advocacy


    excerpt: “During the 1990 legislative session, in which DOC advocated for massive increases in construction budgets for new beds, Middle Ground presented a major report, entitled Prison Overcrowding: Manufactured Crisis?, which exposed many of the DOC’s self-generated and highly questionable policies, practices and “facts” that were being used to justify the request for thousands of new beds.

    During the 1993 legislative revision to the criminal code, Middle Ground wrote, published, and distributed to all 90 legislators a major report entitled, “Reclaiming The Vision”, which proposed innovative solutions to the problem of crime reduction/control in Arizona.”

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