A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that Arizona has the fifth highest incarceration rate in the country and that Maricopa County prosecutions show racial disparities in sentencing.
The data is from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office from January 2013 through December 2017 and includes over 51,000 cases in which a defendant was either sentenced to jail, probation or prison, 12 News reported.
“Hispanic people on average spend 298 days incarcerated for the charge of simple marijuana possession (ARS Code 13-3405 A1), almost two months longer than white people prosecuted for the same crime,” the report stated. “This difference is statistically significant. On average, Black people spend four more days behind bars than white people for this charge.”
The ACLU’s report states that:
- When prosecuted for simple cannabis possession, Hispanic people are sentenced to significantly longer jail and prison sentences than their white and Black counterparts.
- Black and Hispanic people prosecuted by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office spend significantly more time incarcerated than white people.
- When prosecuted for personal possession of drug paraphernalia, Black people consistently receive longer prison, jail and probation sentences than white or Hispanic people.
- When ordered to pay a fine, Hispanic people pay significantly higher fines than white people.
- White people are more likely to have cases dismissed or not filed than individuals of any other race.
“On average, Black people spend 1,004 days incarcerated, about eight months longer than white people,” the report noted. “Hispanic people spend an average of 990 days incarcerated, about seven months longer than white people.”
The ACLU believes that the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office needs to prioritize addressing racial disparities by implementing major policies that go beyond bias training and result in measurable changes. For instance, the county could implement a policy to stop prosecuting simple drug possession charges, including paraphernalia charges, which the data shows have a striking impact on Black and Latino people.