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Arizona, with more than 40,000 state prison inmates, has gained more with the growing population. Unfortunately, with more equality between the sexes, women are committing more crimes, even though they trail the men by a large number. But two years ago Arizona was adding an average of five women a month to state prisons. In the most recent budget year, the number is 11.

Now there are 4,422 women at Arizona State Prison Complex — Perryville, the only one with women inmates. That is more than 200 above capacity, although 141 temporary beds have been added. Because of that, the Arizona Department of Corrections is planning to reopen a closed prison in Douglas, a former motel.

DOC informed the Joint Legislative Budget Committee of the plans and heard typical complaints about too much incarceration. One legislator stated that the inmates would be better off sleeping on the floor than being moved far from their families in central Arizona, although that clearly is not acceptable under law. Other complaints involve the difficulty of hiring corrections officers away from the metropolitan areas.

Inmates often are placed near family members, which makes visitation easier, but that is not a constitutional right. Not all prisons can be located in the Valley, and some areas there have resisted their placement. Meanwhile, several prisons representing multiple jurisdictions are in Pinal County. Hiring enough officers remains a challenge, but many Pinal County residents work at the institutions.

Seeking to release more of the inmates who have earned that right remains an important goal, but unfortunately, many need to be locked up. Some of that work is done by contracted private prisons and much of it still is done by the state itself. The state has made an effort to provide better compensation for the officers, and more is needed. DOC has no choice but to expand its capacity, because the state is growing, and crime comes with that.

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