Syrita Bowen News, Press

Majority of Americans Support Core Provisions of Senate’s Criminal Justice Reform Package as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Prepares a Whip Count

(Washington, DC) – As President Donald Trump is reported to be on the verge of an endorsement of the First Step Act, the Justice Action Network released results of a new exit poll showing overwhelming voter support for key provisions of the bill, a prison and sentencing reform package negotiated by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin.

The poll was conducted by Robert Blizzard of Public Opinion Strategies, a prominent conservative polling firm.

Among the key findings in the poll:

  • 76% of voters believe judges should be able to depart below mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases when they feel the punishment is too harsh.
  • 66% of voters believe mandatory minimum sentences have put too many people behind bars for too long, and should be reformed—especially for drug offenses.
  • 87% of voters believe people in prison should be able to earn credits for participating in job training and rehabilitative programming.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 voters believe federal prisons should be able to move terminally ill inmates to halfway houses or home confinement.

The poll comes mere days from a whip count on the bill, which has now been endorsed by the nation’s most prominent law enforcement groups.  Leader McConnell has pledged that if the legislation garners 60 votes in a whip count, he will schedule the bill for a floor vote. Late last week, the Fraternal Order of Police – the largest law enforcement labor organization in the U.S. – became the first significant law enforcement group to announce their partnership with the White House on criminal justice reform legislation. That announcement was quickly followed by support letters from the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major Cities Sheriffs of America. The new polling numbers show the American people are firmly behind the effort, and Congress is now on the verge of passing the most significant, commonsense criminal justice reform in decades.

“At a time when our nation feels more divided than ever, one thing nearly all Americans agree on is the need to fix our broken criminal justice system,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the Justice Action Network. “Numbers don’t lie – 3 in 4 Americans stand against mandatory minimum sentences and close to 9 in 10 are in favor of job training and treatment programs for people in prison, ensuring they can successfully reenter society and turn away from crime for good. Supporters of this bill now include pivotal law enforcement voices, business leaders, veterans, civil rights advocates, conservatives, progressives and everyone in between. And when the President announces his support, he can rest assured the American people are behind him.”

“We’re approaching a critical moment that marks a sea change in the approach to criminal justice in Congress,” said Jason Pye, Vice President of Legislative Affairs at FreedomWorks. “These poll results further emphasize the need to act at the federal level now. We’ve already seen the states take more innovative approaches to criminal justice reform, focusing on recidivism reduction through evidence-based programs and other initiatives. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Grassley, Senator Durbin, Senator Lee, and others, Congress may soon begin catching up with the efforts and successes of the states. We’re confident that the reforms in the FIRST STEP Act will enhance public safety and produce better outcomes for those who served their time. FreedomWorks is proud to support the bill, and we look forward to its timely passage.”

“The groundbreaking sentencing reforms in this bill will begin to turn our country away from the destructive mandatory minimum sentences that contributed to mass incarceration and unacceptable racial disparities,” said Inimai Chettiar, Director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “Bipartisanship is a rare thing in this acidic political climate, and I’m proud to have held the line with progressive and conservative advocates who were committed to the broadest possible bill that could afford the most relief to as many American families as possible. I believe we have achieved these goals, and I look forward to the day this legislation is signed into law.” 

The Justice Action Network is the largest 501(c)4 organization in the country devoted to bipartisan cooperation in the criminal justice reform space. From state houses to the White House, the Justice Action Network’s partners on the right and the left have paved the way for lifechanging criminal justice reforms including sentencing reform, prison reform, bail reform, dignity for incarcerated women, and more. The network of diverse voices deeply involved in the federal effort include #cut50, FreedomWorks, Brennan Center for Justice, Faith and Freedom Coalition, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, American Conservative Union, ALEPH Institute, Just Detention International, Americans for Tax Reform, and hundreds of Americans directly impacted by our broken justice system who have lobbied for this bill in Washington. For more information on their work, visit www.justiceactionnetwork.org.