If you think that laws are passed or defeated by the votes of a majority of the legislators you elect, think again. As a follow-up to a recent blog article on our website discussing criminal justice reform in Arizona, we’d like to focus on bi-partisan attempts by many members of the state legislature to make real inroads in revamping our criminal justice system, and how one legislator – Rep. John Allen (R – Scottsdale) – who chairs the Judiciary Committee, is using his power and deciding on his own which bills will be voted on and which have a chance to become law. In all the cases we’ve seen, Rep. Allen has wielded his power to ensure that Arizona criminal justice fails.
Many of the recent bills are aimed at reducing the prison population in Arizona, which is traditionally among the ten states with the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Here are some of the legislative proposals that have been trashed by Mr. Allen:
- HB 2245 would allow judges additional discretion on mandatory minimum sentences.
- HB 2270 would provide inmates with the opportunity to for an inmate to reduce his or her term of incarceration upon completion of treatment and educational programs.
- HB 2362 would permit the expungement by the court of the records of those who are not “dangerous offenders,” although those records would remain available to law enforcement.
- HB 2403 would permit the judge to lower a mandatory fine if the offender and/or the offender’s family would have serious difficulty paying it. In lieu of the fine, the offender would perform community service.
- HB 2404 would reduce a charge for possession of 2.5 ounces of marijuana or less to a petty offense. At the present time, the offense is classified as a felony.
In each of these cases, we are told, Mr. Allen, using his position, has decided to kill these bills. He didn’t put them to a vote; rather, he merely exercised his unbridled power to deny the citizens their right to have the legislature make the decision on whether to enact the laws of the state. Lots of folks have been trying to reach Allen, but to date he has been more than selective on the issue of whom he is willing to meet with and/or listen to. Many of those in favor of the bills have vowed to continue the fight for criminal justice reform in Arizona.
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