The Arizona Department of Corrections was established by Laws 1968, Chapter 198. Statutory authority is found at A.R.S. §§41-1601 et seq.
The purpose of the State Department of Corrections (Department) is to encompass the current and future institutions, facilities, and programs that are part of Arizona’s correctional program. The Department also provides supervisory staff and administrative functions at the state level for “all matters relating to the institutionalization, rehabilitation and community supervision functions of all adult offenders.” (A.R.S. §41-1602). As of 2018, there are ten state prisons and six state-level private facilities.
The Department is overseen by a director who is appointed by the Governor. The director must be experienced in adult correctional programs, and have qualifications and training for managing a modern penal system.
The Department has four divisions (Arizona Auditor General, 2011 Performance Audit Sunset Review). The Administrative Services Division manages a variety of administrative functions for the Department including financial services; information technology; facilities maintenance and construction; planning, budgeting, and research.
The Offender Operations Division is responsible for the operation and security of state-run prisons. This division determines an offender’s custody level and prison assignment, and calculates inmates’ sentence length and release date. Private prisons contracted with the Department are monitored by the Contract Beds Bureau of this division. Offender Operations also contains the Community Corrections Unit, which retains and monitors inmates granted parole to complete their sentence out in the community.
The Support Services Division administers human resources; staff training and development for employees; and work, education, training, counseling, and treatment services for inmates. This division includes Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI), which operates businesses within prison facilities and partners with private employers to provide qualifying inmates with work opportunities. The purpose of ACI is to provide training and work experience; to reduce the cost to society by allowing inmates to pay some portion of their room and board costs; to make restitution to victims; to require and enable inmates to provide assistance to their families; and to allow an inmate to accumulate savings for eventual return to the community.
The Health Services Contract Monitoring Bureau monitors the private contractors that provide on-site healthcare for inmates including general medical and emergency treatment, dental, mental health, and pharmacy services.
Other offices within the Department, reporting to the director, are the Victim Services Office, Constituent Services Office, Office of the Inspector General, Office of the General Counsel, Legislative Liaison Office, and Media Relations Office.
Laws governing the operation of state prisons and the treatment of prisoners are found in A.R.S. Title 31, Chapter 2. Laws governing the operation of county jails and treatment of those prisoners are found in A.R.S. Title 31, Chapter 1.
Since Territorial days, Arizona law has established both county jails, kept by the sheriffs of the counties where they are located; and territorial (state) institutions for adult and juvenile offenders. In 1875, Arizona’s first Territorial Prison was constructed in Yuma. In 1908 the Arizona Prison at Florence was built by inmates and replaced the Territorial Prison at Yuma. A superintendent and board of control were responsible for operating the prisons. For more information on the history of institutions for juveniles, refer to the history of the Department of Juvenile Corrections.
Laws 1941, Chapter 65 transferred the powers and duties of the Board of Directors of State Institutions to the Governor. The measure also transferred responsibility for the Home for the Aged and Infirm Arizona Pioneers, the State Prison and prison farm, the State Hospital for Disabled Miners and the capitol buildings and grounds. It was an emergency measure, with an effective date of March 21, 1941.
In 1967, the Legislature appointed a joint study committee to review juvenile corrections in Arizona. The joint study committee appointed a professional advisory committee to conduct a full review of all correctional facilities in Arizona.
The advisory committee found numerous problems with duplication and overlap among governmental units at all levels of the state and local corrections systems. The advisory committee recommended establishing a unified corrections system with a uniform set of standards and goals, dedicated accounting staff, and a centralized parole system. The joint study committee concurred with the findings and drafted a bill to create the state Department of Corrections, and transfer to the new department all property and personnel under the Superintendent of the State Prison and the Board of Directors of State Institutions for Juveniles.
Laws 1968, Chapter 198 established the Department of Corrections to consolidate the supervisory staff and administrative functions at the state level of “all matters relating to the institutionalization, rehabilitation, and limited parole functions of all adult and juvenile offenders” (emphasis added). This law added Chapter 11, Articles 1 and 2 to Title 41 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.
Laws 1969, Chapter 81 changed the term “juvenile offender” to “youth offender.” The law added sections dealing with Correctional Industries to the Department’s responsibilities, the purpose of which was to combat idleness, and create work and training opportunities within prisons. This law also repealed those sections from A.R.S. Title 31, Chapter 2, Articles 4 through 9.
Laws 1970, Chapter 40 and Chapter 104 expanded the Director’s powers. Chapter 40 authorized the Director to establish and operate community correctional centers, which were meant to provide housing, supervision, and counseling for parolees and inmates allowed to participate in work and educational programs. Chapter 104 enabled the Director to authorize performance of medical, surgical, or dental services deemed medically necessary by the attending physician or dentist for any person under care of the department (but not employees) when a spouse, adult next of kin, or legal guardian was not available. A third measure adopted that year, Chapter 174, authorized creation of the Arizona Correctional Training Facility for confinement of male inmates and to provide vocational and industrial training while in custody.
Laws 1972, Chapter 86 authorized Arizona’s entrance into the Interstate Corrections Compact, to provide for mutual program development and cooperation for the confinement, treatment, and rehabilitation of offenders.
Laws 1978, Chapter 164 was a comprehensive measure addressing a number of corrections issues, including juveniles, probation and parole, prisoner labor and compensation, members of the Board of Pardons and Parole, and duties of the Director of the Department. The law also created the Corrections Industry Advisory Board, consisting of six members appointed by the Governor and two members appointed by the Legislature.
Laws 1989, Chapter 266 created the Department of Juvenile Corrections and established the State Juvenile Educational System Board. This law made other technical corrections and conforming changes to the Department of Corrections and other statutes related to the disposition and commitment of juveniles.
Laws 1993, Chapter 255 made numerous changes to state law on parole, work furlough, home arrest, earned release credits, and other early release programs, and made conforming changes to statutes governing the Department as part of revisions to the criminal code.
Laws 1994, Chapter 195 authorized the director to provide educational services and facilities to house minors who are committed to the Department for criminal offenses, to establish private detention facilities for persons in temporary custody, and to establish private incarceration facilities for minimum to medium security level offenders. The measure also created the Joint Select Committee on Corrections to review the construction schedule of prisons and monitor the growth or decline of the inmate population in Arizona. An annual report is due by October 15 each year.
Laws 1997, Chapter 283 outlined requirements for private prisons to operate in the state. A private prison is primarily directed at housing adult prisoners sentenced to incarceration by a court from another state.
Laws 2011, Chapter 33 established the Department of Corrections Building Renewal Fund and allowed monies in the fund to be used to repair buildings and infrastructure. Funds are derived from various (non-general fund) sources including prisoner spendable accounts, the inmate store, and the ACI revolving fund. Monies may not be used for new buildings, landscaping or demolition, although a portion of the monies may be used for routine preventative maintenance. The measure also outlined correctional reimbursements between counties and the Department.
Legislation enacted in 2017 required the Department to compile an annual report describing drug and alcohol treatment programs available to offenders who are imprisoned, on community supervision or parole. The report must describe the programs, the number of offenders receiving services, the cost and source of funding for the programs and the names of the treatment providers. A second measure enacted the same year required the Director to develop a graduated intervention policy for offenders who violate community supervision and required an annual report detailing the use of and completion rates for major interventions. See Laws 2017, Chapter 33 and Chapter 236.
Laws 2019, Chapter 310 modifies calculation of and eligibility for earned release credits, and establishes notification requirements. DOC is required to prepare an annual report on recidivism rates of those prisoners released under the earned release credits program. The measure also outlines specific information DOC must report quarterly, including the number of prisoners who received earned release credits; the type of crimes committed; the length of the prison sentence; the number of prisoners released into the transition program; the number of prisoners who received treatment for substance abuse; and success rates.
- Revised Statutes of Arizona Territory §1181 et seq.; §3572 et seq. (1901)
- Revised Statutes of Arizona, Penal Code §1431 et seq. (1913)
- Arizona Revised Statutes §31-101 through §31-342
- Arizona Revised Statutes §§41-1601 et seq.
- Session Laws
- Laws 1941, Chapter 65
- Laws 1968, Chapter 198
- Laws 1969, Chapter 81
- Laws 1970, Chapter 40, Chapter 104 and Chapter 174
- Laws 1972, Chapter 86
- Laws 1978, Chapter 164
- Laws 1989, Chapter 266
- Laws 1993, Chapter 255
- Laws 1994, Chapter 195
- Laws 1997, Chapter 283
- Laws 2011, Chapter 33
- Laws 2017, Chapter 33 and Chapter 236
- Laws 2019, Chapter 310
Report to the Arizona Legislature: Proposed Structural Reorganization of Correctional Programs in Arizona, Joint Study Committee on Juvenile Institutions, January 1968.
Department of Corrections Performance Audit: Report No. 11-08. September 27, 2011.
Related collections at Arizona State Archives:
- Record Group 31 – Corrections, Department of
- Record Group 30 – Corrections Planning, Commission on
- Record Group 181 – Juvenile Corrections, Department of