Phoenix, AZ. – The Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (“APAAC”) selected Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk as its new Council Chair at its regular meeting held November 17, 2011. Although Polk was unable to attend the meeting in person because she was wrapping up the sentencing phase of the trial of James Arthur Ray for the deaths of three people in the tragic “sweat lodge” case, her colleagues appointed her to the position by unanimous acclamation.
APAAC’s mission is to empower Arizona’s prosecutors to administer justice and contribute to public safety through training and advocacy. APAAC has 23 Council members and coordinates the prosecution function statewide. The Council consists of the Attorney General, the fifteen elected County Attorneys, and municipal level prosecution offices, as well as a law school dean and a representative of the judicial branch.
Polk, who succeeds Derek Rapier, Greenlee County Attorney, stated she will continue APAAC’s priorities on training and maintaining integrity of prosecutors statewide. Polk said: “I will do everything I can to support APAAC’s work in providing the highest quality comprehensive training to our state’s prosecutors, leveraging local and national resources to achieve justice in our courts, and to maintain confidence in the criminal justice system.”
Ms. Polk supports recent expansions of the APAAC trainings from fundamental skills and case law developments to more specialized courses in areas such as wiretap, domestic violence and “Beyond Courtroom Mechanics.” In the past year, APAAC has nearly doubled its hours of continuing legal education credits, bringing to Arizona top presenters, both local and national. Most courses are provided at no charge to the prosecuting offices.
APAAC is currently involved in the discussion on sentencing as the collective voice of the prosecution community, helping to shape Arizona’s criminal justice policies. Noting the recent and significant drop in the state’s crime rate, Polk stated: “Policy makers need to clearly understand what is working when making decisions about sentencing and prison incarceration issues. I will help inform that conversation at the state legislature.”
Polk cited a study of the actual makeup of Arizona’s prison population, published in March 2010, commissioned by APAAC and available on the APAAC website at http://apaac.az.gov/images/stories/prisoners_in_arizona-033010.pdf. According to Polk, APAAC has chosen to drill even further into the data and learn from the history of the state’s corrections community. An update to the report is imminent, including trending based upon a statistical look at thirty years of Arizona Department of Corrections data.
Polk notes that APAAC is also developing a website called AZSentencing.com in an ongoing effort to establish credible data upon which to make criminal justice decisions. This website will serve as a timely portal to news, information and resources on criminal sentencing issues in Arizona.
Through work such as this, Ms. Polk is prepared to lead Arizona’s prosecutors in achieving APAAC’s mission with the same dedication and impeccable ethics that she has displayed as the Yavapai County Attorney, a founding member and co-chair of MATForce, a countywide substance abuse coalition, and past-president of the Arizona County Attorneys and Sheriffs Association.