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I urge everyone concerned about criminal justice reform to check out the great poll Mass Inc just released which demonstrates there is a broad consensus in favor of criminal justice reform across the Massachusetts political spectrum.
The cross tabs show the highest position responses for the questions of what to do with criminals are rehabilitation (23%) and prevention (43%) with punishment getting the lowest level at 15%.
Even I was surprised by these cross tabs which stood out:
Residents show little support for mandatory minimum sentencing.
Only 11 percent say mandatory minimum sentences are the preferred sentencing mechanism when presented with three options. Far more prefer judges either use sentencing guidelines (44 percent) or determine sentences on a case-by-case basis (41 percent).
This marks a clear departure from MassINC’s 1997 poll, when large majorities viewed a variety of mandatory sentences as effective in reducing crime.
4. The public sees drug use as a health problem rather than a crime, and seeks an increased focus on rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
By more than a 2-to-1 margin, people are more likely to perceive drug use as a health problem (64 percent) than a crime (24 percent).
More than four in five (83 percent) think sending drug users to treatment instead of prison would be effective in reducing crime. Drug trafficking is still viewed as a more serious offense, and far fewer would support leniency for
Local pols voted for a three strikes law as recently as 2012, but it seems that there is wide support for going even further than the effort proposed by Sen. Chang Diaz and Rep. Mary Keefe.
There is widespread support for turning drug treatment from the criminal justice issue it currently is to the public health issue it actually is. Not only would this apply to marijuana legalization which is still looking to get on the ballot (where it is widely expected to pass), but also to innovative programs like the kind Gloucester is experimenting with.
The other findings, particularly the recognition that mentally ill prisoners should be housed separately from hardened offenders and given appropriate mental health care is heartening as well.
Will our policy makers catch up with the public? Arm your local legislators with this information and let them know the tide has shifted on these critical issues away from the polices of broken windows and towards policies that mend lives.