- Associated Press - Monday, September 25, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - The Arizona Department of Corrections wants 102 new positions and more than $13 million for re-entry and recidivism reduction programs.

A budget request for the 2019 fiscal year sent to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office said the agency’s goal to reduce recidivism by 25 percent in the next decade will be delayed indefinitely without additional resources, The Arizona Capitol Times reported (https://bit.ly/2ynPkRj ) Monday.

The department estimates that half of its current prisoners have served a prior prison sentence.

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Since 2016, Ducey has made recidivism reduction a priority.

This year, Ducey signed a bill that expanded felony pretrial intervention programs to all Arizona counties. His administration is looking into implementing a policy so public sector applicants will not have to reveal their criminal histories early in the application process.

The agency wants funding to expand substance abuse treatment services in prison that could benefit 14 percent of prisoners, create a special needs supervision unit and provide motivational interviewing training to corrections officers so they can learn how to engage with prisoners in ways that could lead to positive change.

The department has made similar requests in the past, said department spokesman Andrew Wilder in an email to the newspaper.

Prisoner rights advocates aren’t convinced the request signals a change in philosophy.

The move is designed to look good on paper but is simply going to add more staff, said Donna Hamm, director of Middle Ground Prison Reform.

Hamm is critical of the department’s intentions, especially since Director Charles Ryan has been reluctant to follow Ducey’s lead.

“They’re chasing the money,” she said. “If that money goes away, those programs go away.”

Even if the department is approved for $1.3 million for the next three fiscal years to provide the motivational interviewing training, she doubts the effort would have much an impact.

“Communicating this new way of thinking to almost 9,000 employees whose turnover rate is in the high teen figures will be a monumental task that will simply fall away at the next change of governor or director,” she said. “And what a boondoggle for them in the meantime: $1.3 million!”


Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, https://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

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