The fascinating results of a new poll conducted by the Pew Center on the States are out, and they show that the public gets it on sentencing reform.
Key TakeawaysA common message in the results: the public is for sentencing reforms -- including sending fewer people to prison for less time -- but only if it keeps us safe. That means that alternatives to lengthy prison sentences have to be proven effective. The cost of prisons also matters, but people are willing to pay to lock up those who are real threats.
• American voters believe too many people are in prison and the nation spends too much on imprisonment.
• Voters overwhelmingly support a variety of policy changes that shift non-violent offenders from prison to more effective, less expensive alternatives.
• Support for sentencing and corrections reforms (including reduced prison terms) is strong across political parties, regions, age, gender, and racial/ethnic groups.
FAMM agrees that sentencing reform should not come at the price of public safety. We've never been against prisons -- rather, we just want the right person deciding who should go there and for how long. Judges, we believe, care as much about public safety as any voter or lawmaker does. And judges have better odds than lawmakers do of deciding who is dangerous and who is not -- after all, the judge knows all the facts and actually interacts with each individual offender, whereas legislators in state capitols and Washington don't. Safety matters -- but we can stay safe without taking all sentencing power from judges through the use of mandatory sentencing laws.