During the 2016 regular legislative session, no new bills were passed into law which changed the sentencing laws in Arizona. One bill has been proposed that will allow larger numbers of prisoners to participate in the Transition Program (allows up to a 90 day release in advance of the 85% date; excludes all sex offenders and violent offenders, and DUI offenders, too). The bill would "suggest" but not mandated that the DOC place a certain number of prisoners in the program each year. The bill has passed committees in the Senate, but has not yet been passed on the floor. If it does pass, it will go to the House. At each juncture, the DOC will do its "behind the scenes" lobbying and their position has been "neutral" on this bill. In fact, when presenting their FY16-17 budget presentation to the House Appropriations Committee, the DOC distributed materials claiming that it costs more/day to keep a prisoner in the Transition Program than it does to keep him in a secure prison facility! We are investigating these claims . . .
Meanwhile, there is a bill to create a Transition Program for mentally ill released offenders, but -- again -- the DOC has not thrown its support on this bill. They haven't really opposed it, but they don't seem to be aggressively supporting it either. They are probably more opposed to this bill than the regular Transition Program expansion because the mentally ill transition program DOES mandate a minimum number of participants/year, and the DOC is never going to support that.
NO bills have been introduced to vastly modify the criminal sentencing code; to reduce sentences from 85% to 65% or to allow any other sorts of "relief" on the time spent in prison, except for the additional non-violent prisoners who may qualify for the Transitio Program who previously did not qualify.
To pass into law, a bill must be heard by two committees in its originating chamber (either the House or the Senate) and then, if passed out of those committees, it must be voted on and passed by a majority vote of the entire chamber. It can be amended along the way. Then, it moves to the next chamber where it is reheard in two more committees, with possible amendments added, and must be voted on by a majority of the second chamber, too. Sometimes, it has to go back to its originating chamber. Next, it goes to the Governor's office where it can be signed into law or vetoed. Citizens cannot introduce a bill; it must be introduced by a member of the legislature. Due to our Republican controlled House and Senate, a bill has a much greater chance of being heard in committee (and eventually passed into law) if it has multiple sponsors who are Republicans. Bills sponsored by Democrats only are rarely even heard in a committee, much less passed into law.
Now is the time to register to vote if you are not already registered. You should become aware of your two (2) state representatives (in the House of Representatives) and your one (1) state senator. These are the people that you should contact when we ask you to support or oppose a bill. You may think that your vote doesn't count, but that simply isn't true. It is important to vote and to keep your voter registration active so that you do have a voice in the way the government is operated in Arizona.
When dealing with state prison or county jail legislative issues, you have to be aware of the correct people to contact. Members of the United States Congress do not deal with individual state issues; for example, the U.S. Congress only deals with the Federal Prison (BOP - Bureau of Prisons). Most of the issues we deal with are state prison or county jail issues. So, if you are dealing with a state prison issue, you must contact the Governor and your state representatives or senator. If you are dealing with a county jail issue, you must contat your elected representative on the County Board of Supervisors. If dealing with a private prison, you must deal with the agency that contracted with that private prison in order to house prisoners for the agency.