About The Issues

Arizona Justice Voter asked all candidates for the Arizona Legislature to answer eight questions about key criminal justice reform issues facing our state. On this page, you’ll find additional background information related to each of the questions we asked.

Question 1: Non-Dangerous Sentencing

Arizona has no parole and currently requires virtually all people in prison to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. One proposed reform would allow people convicted of non-dangerous offenses to be released after serving 50 percent of their sentences rather than 85 percent. Non-dangerous offenses are defined in the proposed reform as any offense other than child molestation, crimes against children defined in Arizona Code § 13-705, dangerous offenses defined in Arizona Code § 13-105, first and second degree murder, and sexual assault.

What We Asked The Candidates: If elected, would you support or oppose allowing people convicted of non-dangerous offenses to serve 50 percent of their prison sentences rather than 85 percent?

Question 2: Mandatory Minimums

Arizona has mandatory minimum sentences for most offenses. Under these laws, courts have no sentencing discretion and are required to impose a minimum prison sentence for a particular crime, regardless of the facts or circumstances of the case or the person who committed the crime.

What We Asked The Candidates:

2(a) If elected, would you support or oppose repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses (possession and trafficking) and giving courts discretion to sentence?

2(b) If elected, and if you would NOT support repealing mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses (possession and trafficking), would you support or oppose allowing courts to impose sentences other than the mandatory minimum sentence in some drug offense cases, if the court finds that doing so is in the interest of justice?

2(c) If elected, would you support or oppose repealing mandatory minimum sentences for non-dangerous offenses? Non-dangerous offenses would be defined as any offense other than child molestation, crimes against children defined in Arizona Code § 13-705, dangerous offenses defined in Arizona Code § 13-105, first and second degree murder, and sexual assault.

2(d) If elected, and if you would NOT support repealing mandatory minimum sentences for non-dangerous offenses, would you support or oppose allowing courts to impose sentences other than the mandatory minimum sentence in some non-dangerous offense cases, if the court finds that doing so is in the interests of justice? Non-dangerous offenses would be defined as any offense other than child molestation, crimes against children defined in Arizona Code § 13-705, dangerous offenses defined in Arizona Code § 13-105, first and second degree murder, and sexual assault.

Question 3: “Hannah Priors”

Under current Arizona law, people can be deemed a “repetitive” offender and given a longer sentence if they are convicted of multiple charges brought in one indictment – even if those charges happened within hours of each other, are part of the same case, or it is the person’s first time ever being charged with any crime. This practice is often referred to as alleging “Hannah priors” (based on the State v. Hannah case from 1980). For example, a person may sell drugs to an undercover officer several times in one week, and all the charges can be brought in one indictment. Each separate charge becomes a “Hannah prior” that can be used to give the person a longer, mandatory prison sentence as a “repetitive” offender – even if this is the person’s first case. One proposed reform would change current law so that people convicted of multiple felonies in a single criminal proceeding would not be considered “repetitive” offenders and receive enhanced sentences – in other words, the reform would eliminate the use of “Hannah priors” to give people longer sentences as “repetitive” offenders. 

What We Asked The Candidates: If elected, would you support or oppose eliminating the use of “Hannah priors” to give people longer sentences as “repetitive” offenders?

Question 4: Reforming Arizona’s Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry (ADCRR)

Arizona’s Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry (ADCRR) is responsible for the health, safety, housing, rehabilitation, and care of 42,000 people in both state-run and privately-run prisons. ADCRR employs thousands of correctional officers and staff and costs taxpayers $1.1 billion per year.

What We Asked The Candidates: If elected, would you support or oppose legislation to create an independent ombudsman’s office that would have the power to inspect and monitor prison conditions, interview staff and prisoners confidentially, investigate complaints, collect and report data, and recommend improvements to the ADCRR?

Question 5: Medical Clemency

Under current law, the only way for a seriously or terminally ill person to be released from prison is via a grant of medical clemency from the governor, only after approval by the Board of Executive Clemency. Medical clemency can only be granted if the person is in “imminent danger” of death (i.e., expected to die within a few months).

What We Asked The Candidates: If elected, would you support or oppose legislation to allow the courts to grant release to seriously or terminally ill people in prison if they do not pose a threat to public safety?

Question 6: Elderly Release

Under current law, Arizona has no legal mechanism in place to release elderly prisoners or elderly prisoners who suffer from serious but non-terminal health conditions (e.g., dementia, paralysis from a stroke) from prison. 

What We Asked The Candidates: If elected, would you support or oppose legislation to allow the courts to grant release to elderly prisoners and elderly prisoners who suffer from serious but non-terminal health conditions if they do not pose a threat to public safety?

Question 7: Mandatory Minimums For Fentanyl and Heroin

Under current law, courts must impose mandatory minimum prison sentences on people convicted of sale, delivery, manufacture, or trafficking of fentanyl, heroin, and analogues of fentanyl and heroin. During the 2020 legislative session, legislation was introduced to increase the mandatory minimum prison sentences for these crimes to five or 10 years in prison, regardless of the amount of drugs involved in the offense. 

What We Asked The Candidates: If elected, would you support or oppose increasing mandatory minimum sentences for fentanyl and heroin offenses?

Question 8: “Second Look”

Arizona has no parole, and under current law virtually all prisoners are required to serve 85 percent of their sentences. One proposed reform would permit courts to resentence people after they have served a certain amount of time in prison. This proposed reform is sometimes referred to as a “second look” law. 

What We Asked The Candidates: If elected, would you support or oppose a “second look” law that gives courts the option to resentence a person after the person has served a certain amount of time in prison (e.g., 10 or more years)?