Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery backs prison reform bill

Dec 19, 2018, 6:27 PM | Updated: Dec 20, 2018, 9:34 am
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)...
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

PHOENIX — The sweeping prison reform bill making its way through Congress has the support of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, though he does have some concerns.

Montgomery calls the bill “a good first step” and said he likes that it mirrors what’s already being done in Arizona to address recidivism.

He says the state has been offering programs to those currently incarcerated in order to help reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend after they’re released.

“The emphasis on recidivism reduction programming is a direction that we’ve been talking about in Arizona for a few years now,” he said. “So I think it’s a good thing for the federal government to follow in those footsteps.”

The bill, dubbed the First Step Act, was already approved in the U.S. Senate. It’s expected to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives, and President Donald Trump has already signaled he would sign it into law.

It includes a provision to expand job training programs as a way to help keep former inmates from returning to prison. It also would give judges more latitude in sentencing for some non-violent offenses, which Montgomery said he doesn’t fully support.

He pointed to how giving Arizona judges greater discretion in the 1970s resulted in disparities in sentences imposed.

“More presumptive or determinate sentencing I think provides greater assurances to the community, to victims, to offenders and to those responsible for negotiating resolutions – defense attorneys and prosecutors – a much better sense of what different types of offenses are going to carry for different types of punishment,” he said.

Montgomery said he also would’ve liked to see the prison reform bill keep a provision requiring the Federal Bureau of Prisons to track cohorts of inmates after they’re released to see if certain recidivism programs were effective. That provision was taken out.

“I think that’s a huge missed opportunity,” he said. “By not looking at recidivism rates at one, three, five, seven, or nine years out, we’re missing the chance to sort of prove the effectiveness of some of the programming.”

Arizona News

Steve Chucri (Maricopa County Board of Supervisors photo)...

Republican Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri stepping down, cites political toxicity

Republican Maricopa County Supervisor for District 2 Steve Chucri announced Tuesday night he is stepping down, saying in a statement the political landscape changed for the worst this year.
23 hours ago
FILE - This file photo provided by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows Mark Gooch. The attor...
Associated Press

Luke airman accused of kidnapping, fatally shooting Mennonite woman on trial in Arizona

Jury selection began Tuesday in a case against a U.S. Air Force airman accused of kidnapping a Mennonite woman, fatally shooting her and leaving her body in a forest clearing in northern Arizona.
23 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Slim Chickens)...
Danny Shapiro

Valley fast-food operator to open 32 Slim Chickens in Arizona

A Phoenix company has announced plans to bring 32 locations of an Arkansas-based chicken fast food restaurant to the Valley and other cities across Arizona over the next 10 years.
23 hours ago
(AZ Legislature Photo)...
Danny Shapiro

Arizona state Rep. Frank Pratt dies following long illness

Republican state Rep. Frank Pratt died Tuesday at age 79 following a long illness, the Arizona House of Representatives announced.
23 hours ago
(Flickr Photo/U.S. Customs and Border Protection)...
Kevin Stone

Damage to Arizona businesses from border restrictions could be permanent

The ongoing U.S. travel restrictions at the Mexican border are causing damage to Arizona businesses that might never be repaired, according to a state business leader.
23 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...

Here are employers who are hiring in metro Phoenix

With businesses opening to full capacity and looking to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, employers in metro Phoenix and Arizona are looking to hire. Here's the list of employers looking for workers.
23 hours ago
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery backs prison reform bill