Facing prison growth that will cost taxpayers billions over the next decade, Arizona will take part in a multimillion-dollar research project examining crime and prison trends and developing possible policy solutions, reports the Arizona Republic. The Council of State Governments’ Justice Center says that Arizona is one of five states part of the new initiative that will look for ways to curb prison population growth projected to be as high as 50 percent over the next decade. A new analysis shows that left unchecked, growth could cost Arizona taxpayers an additional $3 billion over the next decade. That’s on top of a corrections budget that is approaching nearly $1 billion per year.
The Justice Reinvestment Project, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice, plans to release a detailed report on crime and prison trends and policy options for Arizona next month. The hope is that the report could help state officials find ways to address the root cause of crime and invest money in the most fruitful ways. “There should be a discussion on what does the data show that will have the biggest impact on crime in the state,” said James Austin, of the JFA Institute, a researcher for the project. “That’s something that Republicans and Democrats agree we need to do before just doing more of the same.” Sen. John Huppenthal, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said researchers are developing maps that show which neighborhoods spawn the most criminals. That could allow policymakers to target state dollars for intervention programs and encourage more community outreach in those areas. Austin said Arizona is unique in the nation by having long sentences and no parole for many non-violent offenses.