CA voters favor early release of nonviolent offenders and part-time legislature

150 150 Gina Baleria

A new poll finds that most California voters would rather see some prisoners receive shorter sentences than raise taxes or cut education to pay prison-related costs.

The amount California taxpayers pay for corrections has been steadily increasing in recent years. In 2009, the state spent nearly the same amount on corrections as it did on higher education.

The USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll comes on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring California to ease overcrowding in state prisons by about 33,000 inmates. Solutions have ranged  from relocating some prisoners to county facilities to releasing them outright.

About 73 percent of poll respondents opposed increasing taxes to build new prisons or relocate prisoners, compared to 23 percent of voters in favor. The majority crossed all party lines.

“In these tough economic times, voters expect their politicians to make spending priorities just like their families do, and right now, spending more money on prisons is not a high priority for Californians,” said Linda DiVall, president of American Viewpoint.

American Viewpoint is a Republican polling firm that helped conduct the poll, along with Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

Sixty-two percent of those polled favored reducing life sentences for three-strike offenses, such as property crime, compared to 34 percent of voters opposed.

Stan Greenberg, CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner noted, “That a smaller percentage ‘strongly’ favor early release suggests these are tough choices made in the context of the state economy.”

Other Poll Findings:

  • 69 percent supported early release of nonviolent offenders
  • 84 percent opposed cutting government services to pay for prisons

The USC Dornslife/LA Times poll also finds that 65 percent of California registered voters favor a part-time legislature, compared with 27% opposed.

California is one of only a handful of states that has a full-time legislature. Voter frustration is cited as the reason for such strong support of moving the state’s legislative body to part-time status.

The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll was conducted July 6-17, 2011, and surveyed 1,507 registered voters in California. The margin of error for the overall sample is +/- 2.52 percentage points.


Gina Baleria

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