Does the Electorate Want More Prison or Less?

With a hat-tip to Sentencing Law and Policy, I bring you this poll from the Pew Research Center, a center-left outfit that often does useful research.  The question it asked was whether respondents thought people convicted of crime spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of time in prison.  The results will not come as good news to those campaigning for “decarceration” (and thus, though they refuse to admit it, more grisly episodes like the Waukesha massacre).

In sum, the result is that about 70% of the public thinks convicted criminals spend about the right amount of time in prison (37%) or too little (32%), while just short of three in ten (28%) think sentences are too long.

Among the more interesting results was that a distinct minority of Democrats (41%), and of blacks (40%), think that criminals are incarcerated for too much time.  Clear majorities of those groups think the present level of prison sentences is about right  —  or not enough.

For years, we have heard that America is a shameful “incarceration nation” and that shorter sentences and early release are not only the right thing to do, but are politically popular.  In dramatic fashion, this poll puts the lie to that argument.  When “about right” or “not enough” is beating “too much” by 70% to 30%, there isn’t much room for doubt:  The public overwhelmingly rejects the main staple of criminal justice “reform.”  Indeed, the groups most often said to be its main supporters also, and quite clearly, don’t want it.

Congress, are you listening?

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