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Americans Want Justice Reform

A new poll surveying voters in battleground states finds broad-based support for justice reform. This comes as welcome news to the groups who have been working on this issue for the last year, providing as it does a counterargument to those lawmakers who continue to drag their feet.

It’s always challenging to get big things done in an election year; vulnerable senators and representatives don’t want to be seen as going out on a limb, embracing anything controversial that might hurt their chances with voters. Evidence that voters in important states are hungry for reform, however, gives these lawmakers cover and, if anything, encourages them to act in the hopes of scoring points with their supporters just months before an election.

THe poll, conducted by the Tarrance Group and commissioned by the U.S. Justice Action Network, of which FreedomWorks is a member, surveyed likely voters in Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Kentucky, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Of those surveyed, more than 60 percent agreed that federal prisons house too many prisoners, and that we are spending too much money on non-violent offenders. More than 70 percent agreed that the main goal of the justice system should be rehabilitating criminals to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

Asked specifically about sentencing reform, more than 70 percent of voters agreed with a proposal to allow judges more discretion in the sentencing of non-violent offenders. This is exactly the type of reform that is contained in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, for which FreedomWorks has issued a letter of support. This bill is the largest and most comprehensive attempts at sentencing and prison reform in this Congress, and its passage would make a world of difference to non-violent offenders everywhere.

Public support for justice reform crosses party lines and unites an otherwise bitterly divided country. One of the few things we can all agree on is that the status quo in sentencing policy does not work. We are spending too much money and applying an unjust, one-size-fits-all mandate to courtrooms all across the nation. We have to acknowledge that people are individuals, and the circumstances of an offense matter with respect to sentencing.

We know that these proposed reforms can work - they have done so in conservative states like Texas and Georgia. Federal legislators just need to muster the backbone to act. Hopefully these poll results will give Congress the courage to press forward on sentencing legislation, with the knowledge that the voters will not punish them for simply trying to do the right thing.