ACLU poll finds wide support for prosecutorial reform

Likely voters overwhelmingly support prosecutors who will work to end mass incarceration, alternatives to prison and reducing racial bias, according to polling results released Tuesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union Campaign for Smart Justice released the first-ever national public opinion poll of voters’ views of the role of prosecutors. “The new data shows overwhelming support for prosecutorial reform and that voters will take these positions with them to the ballot box next November,” ACLU said in a statement.

The research, conducted by David Binder Research between Oct. 24-30, included 1,600 telephone interviews in English and Spanish among Americans likely to vote in November 2018. Forty-two percent of participants identified as Republican, 41 percent as Democrat and 17 percent as Independent — a higher than usual response rate for conservative-leaning voters.

Key findings include:

• 89 percent of voters say it is very important for prosecutors to actively work toward ending mass incarceration with alternatives to prison

• 88 percent of voters are likelier to support a prosecutor who believes in reducing racial bias in the criminal justice system

• 91 percent believe it is important for a prosecutor to prioritize reducing unequal treatment of individuals because of race, including 90 percent of white voters, 90 percent of Latino voters, and 95 percent of black voters.

• 79 percent of voters say they are much likelier to support a candidate for prosecutor who believes it is their responsibility to hold officers that break the law accountable and will work to increase overall transparency in the criminal justice system.

“Prosecutors are the most powerful, unaccountable, and least transparent actors in the criminal justice system. They hold the keys to ending mass incarceration. They just have to use them,” said Taylor Pendergrass, senior campaign strategist for the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice. “American voters care deeply about the health of their local communities. It should not be surprising that they overwhelmingly prefer prosecutors who will end mass incarceration, reduce racial bias in our criminal justice system, and operate transparently. The bigger surprise is that ‘tough on crime,’ pro-incarceration prosecutors have survived unchallenged for so long. That is quickly changing with efforts to educate more voters about their local prosecutor, and we expect the voter preferences reflected in this poll to show up on election day.”

The poll found strong bipartisan and geographically diverse support for prosecutors who are committed to reducing mass incarceration and racial bias in the criminal justice system, and who would hold police officers accountable for wrongdoing. More than 1,000 prosecutors are up for election in November 2018, according to ACLU.

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