Poll: Battleground voters back criminal justice reform

Prison, Felons, Voting Rights, Elections
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Over 60 percent of voters in six key battleground states say federal prisons house too many non-violent offenders, a new poll from the U.S. Justice Action Network finds.

Nearly 70 percent in Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin said the federal government is spending too much tax money keeping non-violent offenders behind bars and agreed the criminal justice system should focus on rehabilitation.

The Tarrance Group, a conservative firm, conducted the poll for the U.S. Justice Action Network, a coalition of eight advocacy groups including Americans for Tax Reform, the Center for American Progress and the Faith and Freedom Coalition, pushing for reform.

“This poll reinforces what we’ve already known: voters agree that our criminal justice system is broken, and believe it’s time to advance reforms that not only save taxpayer money and reduce our skyrocketing prison population, but also invest in expanding opportunities for ex-offenders to turn their lives around,” said Holly Harris, the group’s executive director. 

The poll comes as advocates are urging the House and Senate to schedule votes on bills to reform the criminal justice system.

Senators are negotiating sections of the upper chamber's sentencing reform bill to win more Republican support.

Reform advocates have blamed conservatives for delaying the vote. Conservative lawmakers have expressed concerns the bill will lead to higher crime rates and ease the release of criminals likely to commit new offenses.

Advocates fear talks over the bill could weaken the reforms.

The poll also found that more than 70 percent voters in each state favored changing the way non-violent criminals are sentenced and allowing judges to use their discretion rather than doling out mandatory minimums sentences.