Election 2006: Arizona Voters Take a Step Backwards on Sentencing Reform

Arizona voters Tuesday approved Proposition 301, which rolls back a decade-old sentencing reform when it comes to methamphetamine offenders, by a margin of 58% to 42%. Under the state's reformed sentencing structure, people convicted for first- or second-offense drug possession cannot be sentenced to jail or prison. Tuesday's vote means that Arizona voters have now singled out meth users as eligible for jail or prison for first- or second-offense possession.

Votes for Prop. 301 came primarily from the metropolitan Phoenix area, which supported the rollback by 60%, compared to only 52% in Tucson, the state's other significant metropolitan area.

Under the sentencing reform, the 1996 Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act, which was approved by two-thirds of the voters, while drug possession offenders could not be sentenced to jail or prison, they could be subjected to mandatory probation and drug treatment. Now, methamphetamine possession offenders will not be eligible for this program.

Although the proposition was opposed by prominent Arizona jurists and a coalition of community-based activists organized as Meth-Free Arizona -- No On Proposition 301, voters chose to go back to the bad old days when it comes to the demon drug du jour and its users.

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Arizona Voters Take a Costly Step Backwards

It's sad that voters here in Arizona have chosen to treat methamphetamine users with jail and prison rather than cost effective treatment. Proposition 301, which rolled back Arizona’s decade-old sentencing reform law, was an expensive choice.

I live in Mohave County Arizona, where our Sheriff, Tom Sheahan tells us, 80% of the people in his jail, are there because of meth related charges. When deputies in Mohave County make traffic stops, and get a warrant hit, they have to call the jail to ask if they have room. Many times the answer is no, so they just turn the wanted person loose.

If before Proposition 301, we had overflowing jails in Mohave County, where are we going to put all the first time meth offenders, who now must go to jail, rather than cost effective treatment? Who is going to pay for the new jail cells and up keep?

Why are drug crimes the only crimes with mandatory jail time? You can kill another person, be guilty of a crime, and yet under certain circumstances, not be sentenced to jail or prison, but don’t get caught with drugs.

E. Jay Fleming
Speaker
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
[email protected]
www.LEAP.cc

Sir Robert Peel, Policing Philosophy.
"To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation of the public can be secured diminishes, proportionately, the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives"

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