New California Statewide Poll Finds Strong Support for Alternatives to Jail for Non-Violent Offenders, Strong Opposition to Building More Jails
Tulchin Research recently conducted a statewide survey among likely California voters to assess public opinion toward budget priorities and criminal justice issues one year into the state’s “realignment” plan to shift certain public safety responsibilities and resources to the counties.
In general, voters believe our elected officials should invest much more into alternatives to incarceration than they are doing now and they do not want taxpayer dollars used to build more prisons and jails.Specifically, voters in California strongly support reforming pre-trial release policies to require supervised monitoring in the community instead of jail while awaiting trial and they are willing to hold elected officials accountable for not supporting this reform.
The key points from the survey are as follows.
- Voters fundamentally believe that “our prisons and jails are overcrowded and we should find other ways to hold people accountable for non-violent offenses” as nearly four out of five voters (78 percent) agree with this statement to only 15 percent who disagree. The remaining seven percent are undecided.
- In deciding how to spend law enforcement budgets, California voters demand that the state and counties should “invest in more prevention and alternatives to jail for non-violent offenders” as three quarters (75 percent) share this view to only one out of six (12 percent) who feel the state and counties should “build more prisons and jails”.
- In looking at specific policy options for alternatives to incarceration, a solid majority of voters (70 percent) favors allowing courts to require supervised monitoring in the community for people charged with non-violent offenses instead of jail while awaiting trial. In fact, twice as many voters strongly support this reform than oppose it in total (39 percent strongly support this proposal compared to 19 percent who either strongly or somewhat oppose it), with the remaining 11 percent undecided. The table below shows the specific percentages in support as well as the exact question language that we used.
- The survey presented to voters a hypothetical match-up between two potential candidates for the State Legislature – one candidate who voted in favor of allowing more monitoring in the community instead of jail for people awaiting trial for non-violent offenses running against a candidate who voted against this proposal. The reform candidate won by a nearly 3-to-1 margin with 63 percent to only 23 percent for the candidate opposing the reform. The reform candidate drew bipartisan support and led among Democrats (74 percent to 14 percent), independents (64 percent to 22 percent) and even Republicans (46 percent to 36 percent).
Download the ACLU Statewide Poll Memo here.