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Serving People from Arrest to Reintegration

Attitudes of US Voters Toward Nonserious Offenders and Alternatives to Incarceration

  • Organization: National Council on Crime and Delinquency
  • Document Type: Report
  • Date Created: Monday, June 22, 2009
  • Submitted: Monday, June 22, 2009
  • Attachment(s): LINK

In April, 2009, NCCD commissioned Zogby International to conduct a national public opinion poll about American voter attitudes toward our nation's response to nonviolent, nonserious crime. The results of this poll showed that striking majorities favor using methods other than incarceration to respond to nonserious crime.

Findings in Brief:

  • A majority of US adults believe that some crimes,for which offenders are currently incarcerated, do not demand time behind bars.
  • Eight in ten (77%) adults believe the most appropriate sentence for nonviolent, nonserious offenders* is supervised probation, restitution, community service, and/or rehabilitative services; if an offender fails in these alternatives, then prison or jail may be appropriate.
  • Over three-quarters (77%) believe alternatives to incarceration do not decrease public safety.
  • More than half (55%) believe alternatives to prison or jail decrease costs to state and local governments.
  • US adults more often think alternatives to incarceration are more effective than prison or jail time at reducing recidivism (45% vs. 38%).
  • Respondents cited a variety of reasons they believe justify sending fewer people to prison or jail, including expense, overcrowding (danger to guards, danger to inmates), the ability of proven alternatives to reduce crime, and the fairness of the punishment relative to the crime.

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