I’ve been a resident of Arizona for collectively 12 years, with slightly over four of them being incarcerated in prison. With that unique experience in tow, you’d be surprised to see the unique perspective I carry.

I caught wind of discussions surrounding HB2270, a bill for prison reform, here in Arizona recently and honestly, I’m against the bill. You read that correctly: a former inmate does not think we need prison reform. Now if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a proposed bill here in Arizona that would reduce time in prison for good behavior and engaging programs while incarcerated.

There’s certainly an issue with recidivism and crime, but prison is neither the cause nor is prison reform the solution. I don’t believe inmates participating in programs should reduce their time that was deemed to be served and I certainly don’t think “good behavior” should automatically reduce someone’s sentence either. “Good behavior” is something people are supposed to do, people don’t need or are really deserving of accolades for things they’re supposed to do.

If any reform should be considered, it’s steps to improve societal reintegration, not give people less time in prison for committing crimes that they were aware were illegal at the time of commission. We will not get better results by alleviating people of accountability, we’ll likely only see an uptick in more offenses by a broader populous.  We will get better results by living up to the mantra of “Do the crime, do the time,” specifically the “time” portion being that when you leave prison, prison should leave you too.

You might be wondering what I mean by the above “prison should leave you too” comment. People who exit prison get denied menial jobs due to their records cropping up on background checks. A prison sentence should end when someone walks out of their cell and back to their community, but it’s not ending there. People with drive, integrity and new perspectives struggle to find a place in their community and often can’t. If you don’t believe me, a simple look at the data shows that 3 out of 4 convicts find themselves back in prison within 5 years of their initial release. What 90 percent of that demographic had in common was that they were unemployed.

Now while I’m an accomplished individual despite my mistakes, not everyone is nearly as fortunate as I. Whilst some of the numbers attributed to the lack of employment of released offenders is impacted by convicted felons not bestowing the needed initiative to succeed; a hefty amount of that number is contributed to by the individuals stammering through roadblocks that make it difficult to become acclimatized to a sense of normalcy and reforming themselves into a contribution to society.

I myself have had to wade through job denials that I was qualified or even over-qualified for in the past, be turned down for apartments where I well exceeded the income requirement, endured interviews where I knew I was going to be turned down and still furnished answers to questions motivated by a morbid curiosity for those who spent time behind bars. The problem isn’t prison, the problem isn’t the time served in prison, the problem lies somewhere when people leave prison. Passing HB2270 is merely going to give those sentenced and those currently engaged in criminal activity less time for crimes they committed, it’s not a solution to anything. Our communities should focus on those coming home, back into the community after serving their time; the solutions for a better society and helping people stay out of prison don’t come from letting them simply leave it earlier than intended.

Reducing crime, making communities better, and showing more compassion are all honorable endeavors to engage in. Perhaps we should spend less time blaming prisons and drafting bills to relieve criminals from their due sentences and focus on the men and women who served their time, learned from their mistakes and are coming back into our communities.

– Greg Hoyt