Independent Prison Oversight Commission (the “Commission”)
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State Prison Profile
Arizona has 16 state prison facilities (seven of which are private) and incarcerates approximately 33,000 people in state prisons. The state prison system is run by the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (ADCRR).
- Structure: The Commission has 12 members, including: two state senators of different political parties; two state representatives of different political parties; a member who represents an inmate advocacy organization; a member with a background in inmate training or rehabilitation programs; two members who were previously incarcerated in state correctional facilities, one in the men’s wards and one in the women’s wards; a member who is a licensed physician specializing in family or internal medicine; a member who is a licensed mental health professional with experience providing mental health services to adults; a member who is a close family relative of someone who completed a term of at least three years in Arizona’s corrections system and who received an absolute discharge within five years; and a member who has a background in corrections or represents an organization that represents correctional staff. The legislative members are selected by majority and minority leaders in the state House and Senate. The other eight members are appointed by the Governor. The Governor also selects the Chair of the Commission.
- Authorized Activities: The Commission is charged with inspecting prison facilities and reviewing records to monitor correctional issues ranging from healthcare access to staffing. During inspections, Commission members may take notes and make recordings while speaking with staff and inmates. They are expected to issue a preliminary report on findings and recommendations by November 2023.
- Access: The Commission must abide by entrance and security procedures as determined by the Director of Corrections or ADCRR policy for professional visitors when accessing prison facilities. ADCRR is directed to allow the Commission reasonable access to records for the purpose of monitoring.
The Commission issued its first report on November 15, 2023. Subsequent reports will be issued at least annually to provide updates.
In January 2023, a federal judge issued a remedial order requiring ADCRR to make substantial changes to improve conditions and healthcare in its facilities. That same month, newly-elected Governor Katie Hobbs issued Executive Order 2023-06 shortly after being sworn in. The Governor established the Commission to “provide transparency and accountability of Arizona’s corrections system” and facilitate improvements to operations and management.
Other Relevant Entities
Reformers applaud Hobbs’ plans for an oversight commission for troubled Arizona prisons (AZ Republic, Jan. 25, 2023)
As of 2/20/2023, it is not known whether the Commission will have a budget or will hire staff.