Families push for prison reform bill in Arizona

Prison Reform Bill

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - A Tucson organization is calling for prison reform and many families are supporting the cause.

“This is a system that is tearing apart families and we are not getting any benefit from it," said Caroline Isaacs. "There’s no increase in public safety, there’s no reduction in crime.”

Isaacs is the Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee, the group pushing for House Bill 2270 to move through the legislature.

House Bill 2270, sponsored by Representative Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, would allow inmates to earn more credit to be released faster.

Prisoners serving a sentence for a nonviolent, non-serious offense could earn one day off for every day served.

Right now, prisoners can earn a day off their sentence for every six days served. That means he or she must serve at least 85-percent of their sentence, regardless of the crime or services and programs they may have participated in.

According to the Office of Justice Programs, Arizona has the 4th highest incarceration rate in the country.

“It’s just crazy to me how many families are being separated and torn apart because of the insane sentences that people are getting," said Desirae Peil.

Peil’s daughter, Aurora, wears a locket around her neck with two photos of her dad, Christopher Peil.

Officers tried to stop Peil because he was going the wrong way down Oracle Road in April of 2018. His BAC was 0.275.

“We both went out and made a dumb mistake, he was out on parole and went back to jail," said Peil.

Peil was sentenced to ten years behind bars for aggravated DUI. It was his second in seven years, following previous charges he already served time for.

“Yes, he’s made some mistakes and yes there are consequences but the severity of the consequences are not fair and don’t fit the crime," said Peil.

Isaacs said the state is behind the curve when it comes to incarceration and argues the accountability measures are ineffective.

According to the Fiscal Year 2019 Executive Budget for State Agencies, the department of corrections is the third largest state agency budget, with more than $1.1 billion in funding.

“This isn’t a liberal issue, it’s not a conservative issue, it’s something where everyone meets in the middle and says something isn’t working," said Isaacs. “Are we addressing the problem that caused the person to commit that crime, or are we just warehousing them and making them worse? Unfortunately its the latter.”

Isaacs said Representative John Allen is blocking the reform bill from being heard in the Judiciary Committee. The deadline for bills to be heard in the house they were proposed in is Friday, Feb. 22.

“Not just for my husband and my family, but for all the other families out there. It would help so many people and reunite so many families and it just, it needs to happen," said Peil.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.