The campaign Arizonans for Second Chances, Rehabilitation, and Public Safety (Second Chances Arizona) reported filing 397,291 signatures for a ballot initiative designed to reduce prison sentences for persons convicted of non-dangerous offenses and expand rehabilitative programs. At least 237,645 (about 59.8 percent) of the submitted signatures need to be valid for the initiative to go before voters on November 3, 2020.
The ballot initiative would define certain crimes as non-dangerous offenses, such as non-violent drug crimes. The ballot initiative would expand earned release credits for persons imprisoned for non-dangerous offenses; allow judges to impose sentences for non-dangerous offenses that are less than prescribed sentencing ranges and terms found in state code; and exclude those convicted of non-dangerous offenses from the process of charging a person as a repeat offender for multiple offenses at a single trial. The ballot initiative would also establish a Victim and First Responder Support Services Fund.
Through March 31, 2020, Second Chances Arizona received $1.27 million, with 99.8 percent from Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ). ASJ is a project of Tides Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides grants to progressive charities and organizations. Along with ASJ, the ACLU of Arizona, American Conservative Union, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Arizona, and FWD.us were involved in crafting the ballot initiative.
Roopali Desai, a lawyer who worked on the developing the proposal, said, “The idea here is that we’re wanting to have people in prison for long enough where it has a deterrent effect, but not so long that it breaks people to the point where they can’t reenter into society. I think voters really understand that, and they want people to have second chances.”
The process of verifying signatures could take until August 26, 2020. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) has until July 31 to remove ineligible petition sheets. Counties then have until August 21, 2020, to conduct random samples. Hobbs will then have until August 26 to aggregate the random samples and announce whether the initiative will appear on the ballot.