Criminal Justice

ACLU Poll: Majority of Americans, Including Trump Voters, Say Prison Population Should Be Reduced

"Americans reject President Trump's 1990s-era tough-on-crime approach and overwhelmingly believe in a different and smarter approach"

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A majority of Americans, including Trump voters, say there are problems with the criminal justice system and that the prison population should be reduced, according to a poll by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released Thursday.

In a telephone survey of 1,003 U.S. residents conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group for the ACLU, 55 percent of respondents said there are serious problems in the criminal justice system that should be fixed immediately. Another 36 percent agreed that there are some problems in the system that should be fixed eventually.

Seventy-one percent of respondents also said that it's important to reduce the U.S. prison population, including 57 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Trump voters polled.

In a statement, Udi Ofer, ACLU's deputy national political director, said the poll "demonstrates near-consensus support for criminal justice reform, including reducing the prison population, reinvesting in rehabilitation and treatment, and eliminating policies like mandatory minimums. Americans believe that resources should be shifted from incarceration to rehabilitation."

"Americans reject President Trump's 1990s-era tough-on-crime approach and overwhelmingly believe in a different and smarter approach," he said.

The U.S. currently incarcerates roughly 2.2 million people, but there's been growing momentum over the past few years to reduce prison and jail populations, as well as divert people from coming into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place.

Several major cities have launched initiatives, backed by the MacArthur Foundation, to change their bail practices, and voters have elected reform-minded district attorneys in key races, most recently in Philadelphia.

Not everything is trending in the same direction. The number of incarcerated women has been rising precipitously. States are passing harsh new mandatory minimum and felony murder laws in response to the opioid crisis. And while many states—most notably red states like Texas—have slowed or reversed prison population growth in response to ballooning costs and high recidivism rates, similar efforts at the federal level are stalled.

Among the other findings of the survey: 72 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for someone who supports eliminating mandatory minimum laws, and 68 percent said they would vote for a candidate who supported reducing the prison and jail population and reinvesting the savings in drug and mental health treatment.

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  1. Unfortunately this isn’t a top five issue for anyone but the prison union and prison occupant. Also, how many people realize that their personal love of having bans on things they don’t like has a direct influence on prison population sizes?

    1. Any crackdown on guns in this country will not affect the stereotypical redneck gun nuts. It will send tens of thousands of black men to prison, who are far more likely to have illegal guns and be caught with a gun.

    2. It’s #2 on my list.

    3. What the article doesn’t mention?

      What the different parties want to do with them once they’re out.

      Democrats want them to run for office, Republicans would prefer making them work out in the fields.

      Yeesh.

      /sarc

  2. Perhaps we could eliminate laws against actions without victims?

    1. Monster!

    2. Our collective sensibility can be victimized.

  3. I’m a principled libertarian who is against state violence, but if we let these people out they’ll just vote for Democrats. I mean, sometimes you have to be a pragmatist about these things.

    1. What about the democrat party is so attractive to robbers, drug dealers and child molesters?

      1. The real question is why does anyone vote for Republicans anymore.

        They are just saying they’re the party of Jesus and jobs. They aren’t really, you know.

      2. The Democrats are more in favor of programs that would keep them from going back and keep their children from following the same path. Republicans are basically ‘fuck the poor, they can just bootstrap their way to being rich’.

        1. By the gods’ merciful blessings I had not yet started to sip my coffee when I read that, saving me from a nasty 2nd degree nasal burn.


    2. I’m a principled libertarian who is against state violence…

      *cues the laugh track*

  4. Until crime starts going up again.

    Any analysis on why crime went down in the first place? I don’t there’s much love here for “tough on crime” approaches, but how many of us live in the ghetto?

    1. I used to live in the ghetto. “Tough-on-crime” approaches are bullshit.

      Given all the prohibitions and licensing laws and million other potential infractions for which you can be harassed and arrested, as any cop will tell you you can pick any random person in the ghetto and find a crime to charge them with.

      It’s like taking sand off the beach with a spoon. How fast you do it affects how much sand you have in your bag, but doesn’t really make any difference to how much sand is on the beach.


      1. Given all the prohibitions and licensing laws and million other potential infractions for which you can be harassed and arrested, as any cop will tell you you can pick any random person in the ghetto and find a crime to charge them with.

        ^ This. Been there, done that. Most people consider this racism for some reason, but more generally it’s truly a bizarre form of classism and functionally legal bribery. If you can pay the fine, the cops don’t give a shit and neither does the legal system.

        Can’t afford the fine? I hope you like becoming institutionalized. I should know, it literally happened to me with a simple basic traffic ticket while in college and super broke.

        The unfortunate fact is, that to an idiot this looks like institutional racism (and sometimes, of course, it is) but more generally it’s because African American’s are generally poorer, as are plenty of other minorities who also enjoy being arrested more frequently.

        Yuck.

        1. Can’t afford the fine? I hope you like becoming institutionalized.

          The percentage of the jail+prison population who are waiting for the judge for a misdemeanor is infinitesimal.

          but more generally it’s because African American’s are generally poorer

          What is the “it” in this sentence?

      2. It’s like taking sand off the beach with a spoon. How fast you do it affects how much sand you have in your bag, but doesn’t really make any difference to how much sand is on the beach.

        I listened to an alt right podcast today. Their opinion of blacks was considerably higher than this.

    2. I’ve lived in subsidized housing, but it’s always been in small towns. So ‘the projects’ but not ‘the ghetto’.

    3. Yes. The answer is legalized abortion, maybe.

      1. Yeah, more emphasis on ‘maybe’. That Freakonomics thing was pretty soundly debunked. Not because the freakonomics guy was lying, but his methodology was really shoddy.

        1. Makes some intuitive sense though.

          1. So do lots of things that are wrong.

  5. So we just let out the ones with a social security number that ends in an odd digit?
    I would be interested in seeing the actual survey questions, given the sponsoring entity.

    Reminds me of the time I lived near Savannah, and a federal judge told the sheriff his jail was overcrowded, and some prisoners had to be freed. The sheriff wrote a letter to editor (long time ago, people still read dead tree newspapers) explaining he was trying to figure out which were the least dangerous types to release and all that. Next day there was another letter from a citizen explaining all the sheriff had to do was release the baddest of the bunch, just let the public know when and where. The many squares in Savannah still have lots of oak trees, he continued.

    1. All of the questions are listed in the first link in the post.

  6. Reduced? You mean shrunk? By Dr. Shrinker?

    1. No, by Dr. Electric Chair, or Nurse Noose, Professor Firing Squad.

      1. Oh. Like in England in the 1700s.

  7. Unfortunately I doubt this poll is can meaningfully applied to an individual respondent’s support of actual policies which might impact the size of the prison population.

    You ask people open questions like: are there problems with the justice system? Followed by: do you think the US should work to reduce total prison pulsation?

    How many die-hard LEO types could/would say “yes” to both, but still support mandatory minimums, 3 strikes laws, and the war on drugs?

    Is sort of like asking: should baseball be fair? And trying to apply the answer to people’s individual thoughts on steroid use.

  8. The number of incarcerated women has been rising precipitously.

    Parity

    Feminists celebrate?

    1. Getting more women in the coal mines and the oil derricks is not really a priority.

      1. Doing so would close the wage gap. Definitely not a priority.

    2. We’re long past the days where feminism meant equality; todays feminists believe women should almost never be sent to prison, and if they are, for a substantially shorter sentence than a man would get for the same crime. So any judge that sentences women like he sentences men is a misogynist. Some judges agree with sentencing disparities… and women feel no shame or patronization, when someone like a certain federal district judge in Nebraska explicitly states women should get less time than men, because they were just led astray, by a man.

  9. This is shit tier propaganda. People want fewer prisoners and lower taxes. And they also want longer sentences for XYZ and more government services.

  10. The problem is that by “reducing” the prison population, some of the respondents mean with the death penalty.

  11. It’s truly infuriating to see people who previously supported drug law reform throw all that out the window because of the opioid “crisis”. Like because this epidemic is “really bad”, longer sentences and cracking down hard will magically work this time. And of course who cares about the collateral damage, we’re fighting a war here, so what if 100 people have to suffer in immense pain to stop 1 person from getting their high from a pill instead of a random street powder. Make sure you keep your head burried too, lest you make the connection between kicking a bunch of legit patients and abusers alike out of a medical setting and onto the black market and that massive increase in OD deaths. No way those are related right? That would undermine everything.

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