Maricopa Reentry Facility: Why it matters to everyone.

Why does the opening of the Maricopa Reentry Center matter to everyone? The Maricopa Reentry Center is what happens when the legislators shirk their duty to represent its constituents.  Nancy Barto admitted to all who were in attendance at the BlockWatch Phoenix North meeting that she knew about the facility, but “didn’t ask the right questions.”

The primary duty of a State Senator is to represent the needs of their community.  That is not possible if the Senator doesn’t deem it appropriate to engage community leaders and think about the short and long-range implications of major policy changes.  Ms. Barto, knowing that the character of the area would be changing–including from a public safety perspective–did not call the Maricopa Board of Supervisor or Phoenix City Council representative for the region.  Not only did Ms. Barto fail to consult community leaders–she failed to reach out to the region’s school boards, charter school boards, neighborhood associations, or homeowner associations.  Most importantly, Ms. Barto failed to inform the City Of Phoenix Police Department.  Leaving the community to fend for itself MONTHS after the decisions were made.  The Governor included the Reentry facility in his State Of The State Address in February.  Department of Corrections told the legislature of its plan in February.  A poorly noticed public meeting was held in May, at the same time the police, county and city officials were notified.  The Department of Corrections FAQ page states that they “provided advanced notice to the district’s legislative delegation members.”  DOC FAQ

While the State sues the federal government over various policies asserting the importance of “local control,” the State simultaneously passes laws that authorize the withholding of state funding  (emergency services funding) for cities that do something innovative or progressive. This isn’t about cities banning plastic bags, this is about the concentration of authority with the state legislature and the Executive Branch (including the Department of Corrections and all other agencies).  Add the individual Senator’s failure to listen to, engage, or inform your community, to the policy of concentrated governance, and you have a recipe for centralized authority.  I hesitate to add the Arizona Supreme Court to this mix.  I hold the merit selection process and independent judiciary sacred–as an attorney.  I put my faith in the merit selection process, years of jurisprudence and the Arizona Constitution to work together for Arizona.  I hold tightly to these truths, because the Governor just added two additional seats to the Court over the objection of our Chief Justice (raising Governor Ducey’s appointments to THREE justices in just one term).

Maricopa Reentry Center “MRC”.  The facility is the conversion of the Adobe Mountain Juvenile Detention Center into a center for housing and treating adults who failed to meet the conditions of their release from Prison in a partially locked facility in the north section of the Valley.  Back when Adobe Mountain was built, it was far from town–not anymore.  That location is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, schools, and the Wet and Wild Water Park. The inmates assigned to MRC are focussed on improving their ability to integrate into the community.  Some attend drug treatment groups, others leave during the day to look for jobs and long-term housing.  Most are free to leave the facility until the designated curfew.  Unfortunately, many are sleeping in the local parks during the day.  Getting to jobs, court, or searching for jobs is difficult in the area.  Because of the relatively distant location access to bus service is limited; from the bus stop near 23rd Avenue and Pinnacle Peak it takes at least 2 hours to get a bus downtown to the main courthouse. The other bus stop is near 35th avenue, across from Paseo Highlands Park.

To be clear, I support the concept of a reentry facility.  Assisting individuals in avoiding a return to prison is morally appropriate and fiscally responsible.  The services provided at Adobe Mountain/MRC could and should be provided during the prison sentence in a cost-effective manner.  However, as a state, we decided that rehabilitation is no longer a goal of imprisonment.  The lack of attention to pre-release training and drug treatment in prison is a short-sighted policy.  The problem with MRC is the location.  It doesn’t work for the inmates or the residents.  Debate including discussion of MRC.

It is possible to relocate the facility to a more effective location.  Adobe could be returned to a juvenile facility and Durango used for adults, or another more central adult location could be completely-or partially converted to a reentry facility.  Maricopa County jails have capacity!  The state could contract with the county to provide this service. The options are there.  Leaders need to lead–and demand DOC take action.

If you are interested in joining the movement, check out the community page at BlockWatch Phoenix North Through their activism, the Department of Corrections is no longer adding more sex offenders to the facility.  After the 25 at the facility leave…no more will be added.