Arizona Bill Gives Residents More Notice on Prison Construction

PHOENIX — Arizona Governor Doug Ducey on May 19 signed legislation that will give Arizona residents advance warning before the state embarks on any correctional projects, regardless of size or security level.

The new bill updates the community notification procedures that are currently required of the Arizona Department of Corrections when planning a new correctional facility or changing the status of a current facility, according to a statement issued by the governor’s office. The legislation, House Bill 2133, is the result of collaboration between the governor’s staff, the state legislature and community advocates to ensure local communities have a voice in the correctional construction process. The state will also be required to disclose how many inmates will be served by a planned facility and what security levels will be included.

The bill updates the community notification procedures required of the Arizona Department of Corrections when planning a new correctional facility or changing the status of a current facility.
Photo Credit: Arizona Office of the Governor

“Parents deserve a seat at the table for decisions that will affect their communities and families,” said Julie Read, a community advocate who co-authored the legislation, in a statement. “We want Community Corrections to work and, in order for this to happen, the community needs to be considered a partner. This legislation rightly gives parents and community members a voice.”

“To me, the most important thing is my ability to keep my kids and family safe,” said Ann O’Brien, also a community advocate and co-author of the legislation, in a statement. “I think these new notification requirements will benefit parents and the state by fostering a better understanding around decisions like this.”

In particular, House Bill 2133 establishes new community notice requirements at the Arizona Department of Corrections. For example, the state must now give 45 days of written notice to all property owners within a 2-mile radius of a planned project. Additionally, this notice will also extend to state legislators who represent the area, members of the county board of supervisors, members of the local school board or charter school governing board, and operators of any child care facility within a five-mile radius of the project in question.

The law further requires signage on the intended project site, and that a hearing be held in the city or town of the proposed site where community members can provide input. Notices must also be published in local newspapers advertising the hearing, and the minutes as well as any comments received during the hearing must be posted in an online publication within five days of the hearing.

“It was very helpful to have parents and community members involved in this process,” said Gov. Ducey. “We always want to be listening to and involving the community, while providing more opportunity for the public to take part in these decisions. I’m proud that we were able to achieve that with this legislation.”

The bill was originally introduced by Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek; Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale; and Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, on January 18. It passed by an overwhelming majority in both the Arizona House and Senate.