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WHITE MOUNTAINS — Do you have an opinion on Arizona’s criminal justice system? Now is your chance to give input at an Arizona Town Hall meeting on July 28 from 2 to 6 pm at the White Mountain Nature Center. There will be refreshments and a social hour following the meeting.

Every year Arizona Town Hall focuses on a different topic affecting the state. Town Hall topics generally are chosen a year in advance, using input from an annual poll of the Arizona Town Hall membership and input from speakers and members who attend the Annual Meeting. The state’s universities develop a comprehensive research document on the subject, working with a broad cross-section of industry professionals and leaders. The document can be accessed at http://aztownhall.org/resources/Documents.

Some of the facts and statistics from this report include:

• Arizona has the fourth highest incarceration rate in the country. Over 42,000 people are incarcerated in the state prison system, giving the state an incarceration rate of 596 per 100,000 population, well above the national rate of 385 per 100,000 population. In addition, there are nearly 14,000 people in county jails and nearly 85,000 probationers.

• More than $1 billion is spent annually to maintain the state’s criminal justice system. Total costs of the municipal, county, and statewide criminal justice system vary according to location, but average approximately $525 for every man, woman and child every year.

• The number of crimes committed has been declining for years, even as the population has increased.

• Research suggests that when citizens view police actions as legitimate and procedurally just, they are more likely to obey the law and cooperate with police.

• Reforms are being implemented to make the imposition of bail more equitable and to reduce the population awaiting trial in jail.

• 1 in 10 prisoners in Arizona is over age 54. More than a quarter of inmates suffer from mental illness.

• Eighteen percent of those released return to prison within six months. Arizona’s three-year recidivism rate of 39 percent is lower than the national average of 50 percent. Those returning to society after prison often lack the resources to establish themselves in the outside world.

• The Arizona Department of Corrections operates 10 facilities housing over 33,000 prisoners convicted of felony offenses. There are seven private prisons operating under contract with the state, housing about 8,300 prisoners.

Besides hearing citizen’s opinions, the Town Hall will be addressing several questions: What are the principal goals for Arizona’s criminal justice system? What could be done, and by whom, to improve the criminal justice system? How do these issues impact the White Mountains?

To register for the event or to leave your opinion online, got to aztownhall.org.

Reach the reporter at kwarnick@wmicentral.com

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