The U.S. Justice Action Network, a bipartisan organization working to reform the criminal justice system, recently released polling showing overwhelming support among Louisiana voters to reform the state’s criminal justice system.
Bringing together its partners from the right and the left, Faith and Freedom Coalition and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the leading voice for free markets in Louisiana, the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, the U.S. Justice Action Network said the poll indicates there is broad support for reforms that would save taxpayer money and prioritize community supervision programs over incarceration for low level, non-violent offenders. These reforms have been shown to keep communities safe while reducing the prison population.
Holly Harris, Executive Director, U.S. Justice Action Network: “The voters of Louisiana are sending a clear message to their lawmakers – it’s time to act to reform the criminal justice system. Louisiana is spending too much money to have the world’s highest recorded incarceration rate and is not any safer as a result. The voters want their justice system to use taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently to keep those who are the most dangerous behind bars, and to rehabilitate low-level offenders to ensure they are able to contribute to society.”
Mark Stephenson, Founder/CEO of polling firm Red Oak Strategic, who conducted the survey: “These are very strong numbers across every demographic and indicate widespread support for reforms to Louisiana’s criminal justice system.”
Key findings of the poll include:
Almost 83% of Louisiana voters say the state’s criminal justice system need some form of reform, with a majority – 56%– saying it needs major reform or a complete overhaul.
This support cuts across party lines: 79% of Republicans support reform, along with 86% of Democrats and 88% of Independents.
More than 77% of Louisiana voters say there should be a cost-benefit test for the prison budget to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent effectively.
75% of Louisiana voters agree that instead of sending low-risk, non-violent offenders to prison, money should be shifted toward community supervision programs like parole and probation.
Almost 79% of voters would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and give judges more discretion in sentencing to take into account the circumstances of each case.
91% of voters say we need more rehabilitation and job training programs so offenders can better re-enter society after their sentence, and 67% of voters support fair chances hiring practices that ban the box on job applications, giving those with a criminal record a better chance at securing employment.
Kevin Kane, President, Pelican Institute: “The poll confirms the growing consensus supporting a new approach toward Louisiana’s criminal justice system. We need to be using taxpayer dollars to provide the best results that keeps us safe and ensures there is an alternative to incarceration for low-level, non-violent offenders. We now know just how much public support those types of reforms have and we urge our lawmakers to take action.”
Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President for Policy, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights: “We are committed as a movement to ridding the system of explicit and implicit racial and ethnic bias, and to creating a fair and just system that keeps all Americans safe. The societal, economic, and human costs of maintaining the status quo in our federal prison system is unsustainable and morally indefensible. And as these poll results show, the people of Louisiana agree with us.”
Michael Hough, Senior Policy Advisor, Faith and Freedom Coalition: “We welcome these polling results. Louisiana needs to take a commonsense approach to reforming its justice system and that includes making sure the criminal punishment fits the crime. Louisiana should consider reforms implemented in other states like Texas and Georgia and implement smart reforms that will save taxpayers money by reducing the cost of incarceration and improve public safety.”