New proposal seeks to extend transition services for Arizona inmates
Arizona prisoners hoping to access a transition program that has sharply reduced recidivism would have longer to do so under a new proposal working its way through the state legislature.
Currently, state law offers a transition program for eligible inmates, but only for 90 days. A GOP-backed proposal, House Bill 2615 would allow for a one-time 90-day extension of the program. In order for inmates to be eligible, they have to meet certain guidelines, including having completed 45 days of transition services in the community.
This bill comes after legislation signed into law in 2021 expanded the eligibility of the program to inmates that have served longer sentences.
“Right now, the provider has to cut inmates loose at 90 days, whether they’re ready or not,”Jeff Taylor said when the measure was considered on Feb. 13, speaking on behalf of SAGE Counseling, the statewide provider of the prison transition program.
SAGE Counseling works with the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to provide inmates with mental health services, medication needs, educational training, employment, and other necessary assistance after they’ve been released.
An outpatient substance abuse treatment program is also provided which is aimed to prevent relapse and recidivism.
According to ADCRR, recidivism has decreased by 60% for program participants.
Taylor explained to lawmakers that the 2021 expansion is taxing the services, since many more inmates are now eligible.
“Now we’re getting inmates with 10-15 year sentences rather than 3-5 year sentences, so the need is much higher,” Taylor said.
Eddie Tapia, a former inmate, explained that it was transition programs that allowed him to turn his life around.
While incarcerated in Yuma, he took part in parenting, telemarketing and other classes provided.
He said he participated in the classes for an extended period of time and thinks that made all the difference.
“I think it’s important to keep these resources open for people who want the help, it’s ultimately going to make a better community,” Tapia said.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.