County Attorneys Criticism of Reducing Incarceration Costs while Maintaining Public Safety: GCI Response Evidence-Based Programs Work

March 21, 2012

The Grand Canyon Institute’s recent report “Reducing Incarceration Costs while Maintaining Public Safety: from Truth in Sentencing to Earned Release for Nonviolent Offenders,” and an op-ed that appeared on behalf of the Institute in the Saturday, March 3 Arizona Republic by GCI Board Member Bill Konopnicki was criticized in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Saturday, March 17 Arizona Republic co-signed by five County Attorneys: Bill Montgomery (Maricopa County), Barbara LaWall (Pima County), Daisy Flores (Gila County), Sam Vederman (La Paz County), and Brad Carlyon (Navajo County).

The Grand Canyon Institute appreciates our County Attorneys’ steadfast commitment to public safety.  However, we wish they had taken a bit more care to review our report before criticizing it, as the Grand Canyon Institute purposely chose to focus on nonviolent offenders in the “ultra low,” “very low” and “low” recidivism risk categories developed by Darryl Fischer in his 500 page report that was released by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council.

GCI would much rather see our County Attorneys as allies than opponents in efforts to improve the efficiencies and outcomes of our criminal justice system.  Incarceration has a role in criminal justice, but at a cost of $20,000 per year, for some nonviolent offenders, we have better options that are at least as effective and at significantly lower cost.  Our County Attorneys are already heavily invested in programs to divert offenders from incarceration, which we applaud.  The GCI report was intended to open a conversation about the structures of incentive-based programs, who might be eligible, and how best to structure the community supervision and drug treatment components that would need to accompany them.  We hope they see merit in these ideas, and look forward to working with them constructively to reduce incarceration costs while maintaining public safety.