HARTFORD – The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut’s campaign for Smart Justice released new public opinion polling today that shows strong support for criminal justice reform across the ideological and political spectrum.
The research, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group between September 5 and September 10, included 507 telephone interviews with registered Connecticut voters across the state who indicated they were likely to vote in the 2018 gubernatorial election. Thirty-five percent of participants identified as conservative, 34 percent as liberal, and 29 percent as moderate. Respondents were asked about their views on the size of Connecticut’s prison system, the purpose of the criminal justice system, treatment of people returning to society after incarceration, how to respond to drug addiction within the context of the criminal justice system, the existing Earned Risk Reduction Credit program, and what types of policy positions voters seek from their elected officials.
Key findings include:
- 58 percent of Connecticut voters say it is important to reduce the number of people in prison in the state.
- Connecticut voters reject a “tough on crime” approach. Nearly three quarters of Connecticut voters (72 percent) agree that prison is not the only answer to crime.
- 82 percent of Connecticut voters, including 92 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents, and 71 percent of Republicans, say that people who have been convicted of a crime can turn their lives around with help.
- 86 percent of Connecticut voters support the existing Earned Risk Reduction Credit program, including 53 percent who strongly support it.
- 87 percent of Connecticut voters support changing the criminal justice system in Connecticut by increasing funding for programs that help people returning home after incarceration to find jobs, housing, and medical care, including 90 percent of Democrats, 90 percent of Independents, and 78 percent of Republicans.
- 74 percent of Connecticut voters, including 88 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Independents, and 56 percent of Republicans, support Connecticut passing a law to prevent formerly incarcerated people from being discriminated against due to their criminal record in things like housing, employment, education, and insurance.
- The majority of Connecticut voters recognize racial bias in the criminal justice system – only 38 percent agree that everyone, regardless of race or ethnic background, is treated fairly by the criminal justice system in Connecticut.
“The results are clear – Connecticut voters believe it is important to reduce the number of people imprisoned in our state,” said Sandy Lomonico, criminal justice organizer of the ACLU of Connecticut. “Formerly incarcerated people have been calling for smarter justice policies for decades, and the majority of Connecticut voters stand with us. Connecticut voters believe our state should invest in supporting people through rehabilitation instead of incarceration, and they know our state is wasting valuable government resources on incarcerating too many people. All of Connecticut’s leaders should sit up and pay attention to the fact that voters are ready for smarter policies to reduce the prison population, help people reentering society after prison, and make our state a stronger, fairer place to live.”
“Connecticut voters want policies that make our communities safer and stronger, and the vast majority believe in a smart justice approach,” said David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “Smart Justice’s poll shows that Connecticut voters reject the failed, so-called ‘tough on crime’ policies of the 1990s and instead support reducing the prison population, investing in rehabilitation, and creating policies like anti-discrimination protections for formerly incarcerated people. The vast majority of Connecticut voters support smarter approaches like the Earned Risk Reduction Credit program and reject wasting valuable government resources on incarcerating too many people.”
A copy of the topline memo and poll can be found here: https://www.acluct.org/en/publications/smart-justice-poll-regarding-connecticut-voters-attitudes-toward-criminal-justice
The ACLU of Connecticut’s Smart Justice campaign is grounded in the knowledge that the people closest to the problem of mass incarceration – people who were incarcerated – are closest to the solution. Together, ACLU Smart Justice Connecticut is working to usher in a new era of justice by reducing the state’s jail and prison population by 50 percent and combatting racial disparities in the criminal justice system. For more information about ACLU Smart Justice Connecticut: https://www.acluct.org/en/issues/smart-justice