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Criminal Justice

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Arizona’s Prison Population Still Rising

The Arizona prison system continued to grow throughout most of 2015, reaching nearly 43,000 inmates by October, with no indication of a slow-down or reversal in sight. The persistent increase comes at a time when crime is down and numerous other states are considering cutting inmate populations and/or finding alternatives to incarceration. But Arizona officials remain reluctant to abandon the state’s relatively frequent use of imprisonment, maintaining an incarceration rate that has long been among the top 10 of states. However, there are increasing doubts being expressed about the wisdom of locking up so many offenders, not least because of the system’s $1 billion annual price tag. This suggests that there may be some changes in store for Arizona corrections.


Arizona’s Criminal Justice

The Department of Corrections is charged with maintaining effective custody and control of approximately 40,000 prisoners… We cannot do this without a well-trained staff.

— ADC Director Charles Ryan

Public safety and crime are issues of vital importance to all Arizonans. Social stability, individual freedoms, civil rights, and a thriving economy are commonly considered to be impossible without a reasonable expectation of personal safety, property security, and a robust network of enforced laws.

Levels of crime and disorder are thus widely recognized as affecting everyone’s quality of life, not just those directly victimized. In addition, the degree of effectiveness and fairness of the justice system help shape basic social values and legitimize public authority.

The data in this section are taken primarily from standard databases compiled annually by the FBI and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.