A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that Arizona has the 4th highest incarceration rate in the country, with 41,964 people imprisoned in 2017.
Drug possession and drug distribution are the most common reasons for incarceration, reported KTAR News. The total of those incarcerated for a marijuana-related conviction make up 20% of the drug-offending prison population in Arizona.
The report states: “In 2017, marijuana-related charges in particular dominated prison admissions. Around 1 in 5 people admitted to prison for drug offenses were imprisoned for drug cases involving marijuana.”
“Crime for the most part really hasn’t increased in the past decade, yet we’re seeing this dramatic increase in the number of people that are behind bars,” said Allesandra Soler, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arizona.
The report suggests alternative sentencing options instead of sending people directly to prison, including drug addiction treatment programs in lieu of time behind bars. The report also recommends changing the status of some crimes, like drug possession, to a misdemeanor. Currently drug possession is considered a felony offense in Arizona.
Arizona also has the highest Latino imprisonment rate in the country.
Soler said, “Many times people end up going to prison when they don’t need to be there. They need some sort of alternative to prison.”