On the other hand, I've started to notice that statistics overstating the dangers of crime are routinely touted even by those sympathetic to reform. In this case, pollsters told respondents 60% of felons leaving prison are likely to return there, while in Texas, for example, the three-year recidivism rate is just 28.3%.
Still, the overall sense of the survey confirms that the public's expectations regarding criminal justice policy are shifting. By these measures it appears the pendulum is swinging back from the most extreme "tough on crime" approaches toward more pragmatic, preventive ones. Here's an excerpt from Zogby's summary:
Three out of four Americans expressed either fear or concern about the 700,000 prisoners who are leaving U.S. prisons each year, and the fact that 60% of them are likely to commit crimes that send them back to prison, Zogby International’s national survey showed. The poll explored what people think ought to be done about the situation.The public appears far ahead of the politicians on this one, except maybe Karl Rove and President Bush (who notably touted re-entry programs for prisoners in a State of the Union address). Neither party, though, has been able to capitalize on political support for these reforms. Too many Democrats fear being labeled soft on crime, while not enough Republicans picked up the President's mantle after that SoU address to really have an impact.
The survey, sponsored by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a leading criminal justice research organization, reveals that by almost an 9 to 1 margin (87% to 11%), the U.S. voting public is in favor of rehabilitative services for prisoners as opposed to a punishment only system. Of those polled, 70% favored these services both during incarceration and after release from prison.
Likely voters appear to recognize that our current correctional system does not help the problem of crime, the survey indicates. By strong majorities, Americans said they feel that a lack of life skills, the experience of being in prison, and the many obstacles faced upon reentry are major factors in the crimes that prisoners commit following their release.
By an overwhelming majority (82%), people feel that the lack of job training and job opportunities were significant barriers to those released prisoners who wanted to avoid committing subsequent crimes. Similar large majorities saw the lack of housing, medical and mental health services, drug treatment, family support and mentoring as additional barriers and thought that all of these services should be available to returning prisoners. Most of the respondents felt that these reentry services needed to be introduced to prisoners long before they are released.
This poll shows there's political hay to made being smart instead of "tuff" on crime if politicians can muster the courage to take up the cause. The public can plainly see what we're doing now isn't working.
Via Effective Solutions for Texas