AUSTIN, TX--(Marketwired - April 20, 2017) - A broad group of smart-on-crime organizations in Texas announced the release of new Texas Voters Survey polling data showing strong Texas voter support for alternatives to incarceration, as well as for other criminal justice reform policies currently being considered during Texas' 85th Legislative Session. The poll, commissioned by the Alliance for Safety and Justice on behalf of the Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition, was conducted by Baselice & Associates, Inc., and surveyed more than 500 registered voters in the state of Texas between December 14-19, 2016. The goal was to measure awareness of the Texas criminal justice system as well as support/opposition to key policy proposals and types of candidates.
"Texas needs a smarter approach to justice, and we hope this polling helps move leaders in the right direction," said Robert Rooks, Alliance for Safety and Justice.
The survey finds that a large majority of voters (82% of all voters, 75% of Republican primary voters) are in favor of making possession of a small amount of drugs among nonviolent individuals a misdemeanor instead of a felony so that, instead of going to prison, judges may sentence them to community supervision programs or other alternatives where they can get treatment.
Additionally, a majority (79% of all voters, 69% of GOP primary voters) said they would prefer a candidate who supports rehabilitation by sending people with low-level drug offenses into community supervision or treatment programs, rather than prison.
"This is a wake-up call for Texas legislators to rethink the way the state addresses addiction, and to continue on the pathway of finding solutions that cut costs and increase public safety," said Marc Levin, Texas Public Policy Foundation. "Texas voters favor programs where those with drug addiction get opportunities for rehabilitation rather than simply being warehoused."
The Texas Voters Survey also finds that a majority of voters (78% of all voters, 86% of GOP primary voters) favor starting 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system while giving a judge the discretion to move them to an adult system on a case-by-case basis. Currently, Texas is one of six remaining states that charges 17-year-olds as adults, even though 95% of 17-year-olds are arrested for nonviolent offenses.
"We don't want Texas to be the last state to 'raise the age,'" said Lindsey Linder, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. "These survey results present a compelling case to legislators to raise the age of criminal responsibility in Texas to 18 -- a common sense approach that would make Texas communities safer, protect parental rights, and keep youth out of dangerous mental and physical conditions inside adult facilities."
Other key findings from the survey include:
87% of all voters and 83% of GOP primary voters favor a policy that places people with low-level, nonviolent drug offenses into community supervision or treatment programs instead of prison.
82% of all voters and 76% of GOP primary voters favor changing the way technical probation violations (such as missing a meeting with a probation officer, not committing a new crime) are handled, so those who have a minor infraction are not incarcerated but instead held accountable through enhanced curfews, electronic monitoring, or increased check-ins. More than 12,000 people are sent back to prison each year for these technical violations, costing the state of Texas nearly $250 million annually.
92% of all voters and 88% of GOP primary voters agree that Texas' current system is not working for people with drug addiction who continually cycle in and out of jail, never recovering from addiction, and putting a strain on law enforcement.
You can read key findings from the Texas Voter Survey here: www.SmartOnCrimeTexas.com/TXSurvey
Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition: The Texas Smart-On-Crime Coalition is the largest statewide effort working to make Texas' criminal justice system smarter, safer, and more cost effective. The Coalition brings together businesses, faith organizations, nonprofit organizations, and the state's most prominent conservative and progressive advocacy organizations to pursue a plan to address, reduce, and prevent crime. The Coalition works with legislators to safely reduce Texas' costly reliance on over-incarceration. Members of the Coalition include the Texas Association of Business, Goodwill of Central Texas, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the Christian Life Commission, Prison Fellowship, and R Street Institute.