Tucson Opinion: Prison reform needs forgiveness (and costs) in equation | Include local editorials and opinions

The following column contains the author’s opinion and analysis:

Arizona lawmakers are rethinking many hard-on-crime policies. I applaud the legislature’s efforts as this is not a popular topic for politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Putting people in jail is a brutal business. I’ve seen firsthand how deep and debilitating the fangs of justice can be, especially in nonviolent crime. Guidelines put people into proper categories and lose sight of the fact that some people don’t fit. The understanding of a person’s individuality is lost.

Regardless of how repentant a person is, the guidelines for condemnation generally ignore what a person may have done. Their contributions to society or their local communities, or their military service or other benefits to their country, are controversial. The story of being a productive member of society means nothing to policy condemnation. The result is that the punishment of imprisonment puts people on a path that none of us can imagine.

When a person leaves prison, legalized discrimination permeates employment and housing opportunities. Inability to find work puts people on the margins of society and denies them access to the mainstream economy. When people cannot find a job, shelter or food, what does society expect from people in order to survive?

Arizona has the fourth highest incarceration rate in the country, according to a May 2019 report in US News & World Report. Who would have thought we were living in such a lawless state?


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