A new nationwide poll reveals that the majority of Americans believe there should be an alternative to jail as punishment.
The poll was conducted by RTI International and Zogby Analytics. It was released by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The findings underscore great disparities in how citizens feel about the practices of their local justice systems. For example, just 13 percent of Americans knew that 3/4 of those locked up are there for non-violent offenses.
The study also noted that the majority of Americans broadly supported treatment and rehabilitation for people committing non-violent offenses and for those with serious mental illness.
Other key findings from the report are listed below:
- 62% of Americans believe that “rehabilitating or treating the person” is the most appropriate response to non-violent offenses, as opposed to “punishing the person for committing the crime” or “keeping the person off the street so they can’t commit more.” Support for rehabilitation rises to 74% for non-violent offenses by those who suffer from mental illness.
- Just 18% of Americans believe the role of jails for people who receive convictions should be to punish. Nearly twice that number (33%) say the role of jails should be to prevent people from committing future crimes through treatment or rehabilitation.
- Just 14% of citizens believe that those arrested for non-violent offenses, whose alleged crimes do not involve significant property loss, should be held in jail while awaiting trial.
- 74% of Americans who are familiar with pretrial services support their use. Pretrial services are procedures that determine the immediate risk a defendant poses to the community, make recommendations concerning the conditions under which that person could be released from jail while awaiting trial, and supervise defendants who are released from custody while awaiting trial.
The online survey recorded responses from 3,007 participants nationwide December 9-13, 2016. Respondents were asked about crimes that did not involve violence, sexual offense or significant property loss.