Poll: 3/4 of Americans support criminal justice reform

Poll: 3/4 of Americans support criminal justice reform

Three-quarters of Americans think the nation’s criminal justice system needs to be significantly improved, according to a new poll out Thursday.

Momentum is already building for measures to incentivize prison programs that reduce recidivism rates under the Trump administration, but new data shows wide support among voters for other reforms, including reducing mandatory minimum prison sentences and giving ex-cons a fair chance to be judged on their qualifications before being asked about their criminal history when applying for a job. 

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A Justice Action Network poll conducted by Robert Blizzard, a partner at the Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies, found a majority of Americans surveyed, 76 percent, believe that the country’s criminal justice system needs significant improvements. 

Of the 800 registered voters polled between Jan. 11 and 14, 87 percent of Americans agree that some of the money being spent on locking up nonviolent offenders should be shifted to alternatives like electronic monitoring, community service and probation.

Two-thirds of voters — 65 percent — support fair chance hiring, and 87 percent of voters strongly support replacing mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent offenders with a system that allows judges more discretion. 

Eighty-five percent of voters, meanwhile, agree that the main goal of the nation’s criminal justice system should be rehabilitating people to become productive law-abiding citizens.

Proposals are gaining steam in both the House and Senate to allow prisoners to serve the final days of their sentences in a halfway house or home confinement if they complete evidence-based programs while in prison that have been shown to reduce recidivism.

Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesDem lawmakers make surprise visit to ICE detention center Prison reform, peace, and pardons: Jared Kushner's bold and lasting portfolio Time to set politics aside to move ahead on criminal justice reform MORE (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, has offered a bill with Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyRepublicans tear into IG finding on Clinton probe Live coverage: Justice IG testifies before House on report criticizing FBI House GOP headed for showdown with DOJ over key documents MORE (R-S.C.) to increase from 21 to 25 the eligibility age for a young person to get a misdemeanor expunged from their record. 

The poll found that 79 percent of Americans strongly support providing first‐time, low‐level, nonviolent offenders under the age of 25 the ability to expunge that conviction after the successful completion of a court-imposed probation 

The bill has not yet been scheduled for a mark-up in committee.