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Report: Arizona spends nearly $600k a day to lock up drug offend - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

Report: Arizona spends nearly $600k a day to lock up drug offenders

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TUCSON -

 A new report by the American Friends Service Committee states Arizona pays nearly $600,000 dollars every day to lock up drug offenders.

The study’s co-author, Caroline Issacs, said Arizona has the fifth highest incarceration rate in the nation, and drug crime is by far the number one type of offense putting inmates behind bars.

“Instead of it being a crime to be addicted to drugs, we need to view it as a public health problem,” she said.

The report, ‘Drug Sentencing in Arizona: A Prescription for Failure’, concludes the system needs to prioritize treatment over incarceration, especially for repeat offenders.

“Addiction is a disease, like heart disease, like cancer,” said Isaacs. “If we treat it like that, we're going to have much better results.”

The study states the cost per day behind housing drug inmates is around $588,655 per day. That averages out to $24,229 per person, per year.

“”That doesn't include court costs, local law enforcement, things like that,” said study co-author, Rebecca Fealk. “That's just the per diem for a day in prison.”

Pima County’s ‘Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison’ program is the only of its kind in the state. It allows non-violent repeat drug offenders to go into treatment, rather than prison, for a three year program.

The County Attorney’s office estimates the program’s cost is less than half the cost of incarceration on average.

News 4 Tucson spoke with Robert Gallagher, a graduate of the program, back in July. He said it changed his life.

“I got my kids back in my life after seventeen years,” he said. “[I] haven't seen them or talked to them but now me and my son and my daughter talk daily.”

Isaacs said the program is a start, but it has to go much farther for the state to see any real change.

“If we take the philosophy behind that program and expand it to all the drug offenders that need it, then we would see much better results,” she said.

You can find a copy of the full report here

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