"There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice."

AFSCAZ Reframing Justice Day 2.0

Local Criminal Justice Reform Groups Host Second Annual Event at the State Capitol

On January 21, 2020, multiple criminal justice reform groups from around the state converged on the state capitol for the second annual ReFraming Justice Day event.

ReFraming Justice Day was created and organized by the American Friends Service Committee – Arizona. AFSC-AZ is the local chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, a national non-profit organization dedicated to reducing prison populations throughout the country.

Other groups that were in attendance will be the American Civil Liberties Union – Smart Justice, Living United for Change in Arizona, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and other criminal justice reform organizations and advocates.

The primary focus of last year’s event was to organize support behind freshman Republican Representative Walter Blackman’s HB 2270, a comprehensive sentence reform bill that would have increased the earned release credits ADC inmates accrue, providing for an early release from incarceration.

Musician and Social Justice advocate Wayne Kramer speaks to the audience gathered at the Second Annual ReFraming Justice Day 2020 event at the Arizona State Capitol
Musician and Social Justice advocate Wayne Kramer speaks to the audience gathered at the Second Annual ReFraming Justice Day 2020 event at the Arizona State Capitol

Image courtesy Hannah Burke

This year, organizers focused on broadening the approach and advocated on several current pieces of legislation making the way through the Arizona Legislature.

Legislation of interest in the 2020 session to the ReFraming Justice Day participants are measures addressing sentencing reform, earned release credit expansion, so-called “clean slate” legislation, citizens oversight of the Arizona Department of Corrections, the ending of cash bail, and a measure that would carve out a special sentencing enhancement for persons arrested and convicted of possession of Fentanyl and Heroin for sale.

The ReFraming Justice Day event started on Monday night with panel discussion led by AFSC-AZ program director Grace Gamez, Ph.D. Dr. Gamez led a discussion with Wayne Kramer and other former incarcerated paternalists along with Jason Heath, musical director for Jail Guitar Doors on the impact of arts in prison programs. The panel discussion was followed by concert with Wayne Kramer, Jason Heath, various formerly incarcerated musicians and local professional musicians. (See a full article about the panel discussion and concert here.)

The next day, Tuesday, the ReFraming Justice Day event was held at the Arizona State Capitol. Several members of the legislative Democratic caucus held a press conference where they stated their support for criminal justice reform and described several bills that various Democratic Representatives and Senators had submitted for the 2020 legislative session.

After the press conference, several ReFraming Justice Day attendees addressed the assembled crowd. Matthew Charles, one of the first people released under the First Step Act, a bill signed by President Donald Trump in December 2018, gave a speech calling for changes in the Arizona criminal justice system while discussing his own struggles with the federal criminal justice system.

Matthew Charles – one of the First Recipients of the First Step Act

After speeches by other members of the ReFraming Justice panelists, the attendees broke off into small groups and headed into the House and Senate to meet directly with legislators. Later in the day, proclamations were made in both chambers declaring the day as ReFraming Justice Day.

Continued effort is being put in place on several bills now being advanced in the legislative chambers by the ReFraming Justice Day groups. Info World Arizona will post stories on several criminal justice bills as they work their way through the process.

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