PHOENIX, AZ — A pioneering survey has revealed strong support for significant change in Arizona's criminal justice funding and incarceration policies. The data indicate that, while public safety is a very important issue, voters in Arizona believe criminal justice policies should be cost effective, and they are open to alternative approaches as a means of reducing the state budget. They also in large part believe that publicly-operated prisons do a better job than private ones.
The American Friends Service Committee's (AFSC) Arizona office commissioned Flagstaff research firm GlobaLocal Visions, LLC to conduct a 600-person telephone survey of likely voters across the state, including 400 from Maricopa County, with a 95 percent confidence level. Respondents identified as 43 percent Republican, 36 percent Democrat, and 21 percent Independent.
Dr. Fred Solop, Ph.D., the principal researcher, presented the findings at a press conference on Thursday May 9, 2013, on the Capitol Lawn. Among the key findings:
- When told that Arizona spends $1 billion of its $8.5 billion general fund on prisons, half of Arizona voters (52 percent) and just under half of Maricopa County voters (48 percent) say this is too much.
- Seventy percent of Arizona voters and Maricopa County voters support reducing prison time for low-risk, non-violent offenders as a budget saving strategy.
- A majority of Arizona voters (52 percent) oppose private corporations running prisons in Arizona.
Dr. Solop commented, “We now have reliable data on voter attitudes toward specific criminal justice policies in Arizona, including prison spending, sentencing policy, and prison privatization. This information frames the dialogue between voters and legislators that needs to take place.”
Caroline Isaacs, program director, AFSC's Arizona Area Program