NEW YORK, NY – New polling released today finds that voters across the political spectrum support bold reforms to the state’s pretrial justice system. Voters overwhelmingly support pretrial reforms that keep people at home while they wait for their trials, shorten case processing times, and prevent defendants from taking plea deals before evidence is shared with them.
“This poll makes clear that voters are far ahead of Albany in their vision for what a pretrial system should look like,” said Zoë Towns, Senior Director for Criminal Justice Reform at FWD.us. The call for bold pretrial reform is not partisan or coming from a single area of the state. As they head into budget negotiations, policymakers should feel strong support from their constituents to deliver impactful reforms that will successfully and safely drive down jail populations.”
Support for pretrial reform is strong across all regions of the state, with more than two-thirds of both upstate and downstate voters supporting bold bail, speedy trial, and discovery proposals.Large majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans support the proposals and crime victims and survivors show even stronger support for reform than the general public.
Key survey findings include:
- Voters widely support ending pretrial jail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Just over seven in ten voters (71% support/24% oppose) support this proposal to limit pre-trial detention, including nearly half (47%) who support it strongly. Further, Democrats (74%), independents (72%), and Republicans (64%) all widely support ending pretrial jail for these types of crimes.
- New Yorkers support a proposal to replace jail before trial unless defendants are proven flight risks and have been accused of a felony involving physical force against an individual or property damage of over $1 million dollars. This proposal has nearly three-quarters support (73% support/23% oppose), with one-half of voters (50%) strongly supporting it. Again, support spans partisan lines with 79% of Democrats, 76% of independents, and 61% of Republicans all in favor.
- There is broad support for setting in place a firm speedy trial requirement. Voters overwhelmingly support (90% support/8% oppose) setting a firm speedy trial requirement to reduce delays in court proceedings and prevent people from being held in jail for months or years awaiting trial. Large majorities of Democrats (90%), independents (90%), and Republicans (89%) support this speedy trial proposal. A majority (59%) of voters think that a trial must start within 8 weeks to be considered “speedy.”
- Voters overwhelmingly want to reform the discovery process by ensuring that those individuals accused of a crime can see the evidence against them before deciding whether to plead guilty. More than three quarters of voters (78%) support a proposal that would keep individuals from pleading guilty without knowledge of the strength of the case against them. The proposal is supported across party lines by Democrats (79%), independents (80%), and Republicans (74%).
- Support for pre-trial reform increases when voters hear a back-and-forth debate. When voters are exposed to balanced messaging both for and against ending jail before trial for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, support for the proposal increases by nine points (from 71% support/24% oppose to 80%/14%) and strong support increases by six points (from 47% to 53%).
- Voters who have been victims of crimes themselves show even stronger support for criminal justice reform proposals than the general public. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of voters who have been victims of a crime support ending pre-trial detention for those accused of misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, slightly higher than voters overall (71%) or those who have not been victims of crime (70%). A similar number of crime victims (75%) support ending pre-trial detention unless those accused are proven to be a flight risk and have been accused of a felony involving physical force or major property damage, again higher than voters overall (73%) or those who haven’t been victims of crimes (73%).
- Crime victims show near universal support (96% support, 88% strong support) for creating a firm speedy trial requirement, as this population again is even more supportive of reform than voters overall (90% support, 78% strongly) or those who haven’t been victims of crime (88% support, 74% strongly). Voters who have been victims of crime are also more likely to support discovery reform to allow people accused of crimes to see the evidence against them before deciding whether to plead guilty (84% support, 63% strong support) than voters overall (78% support, 53% strong support) or those who have not been victims of crime (75% support, 49% strong support).
About this poll:
Global Strategy Group conducted a state-wide survey of 802 likely 2018 voters in New York between February 8-12, 2018. The results of this survey have a margin of error of +/-3.5%. Care has been taken to ensure the geographic and demographic divisions of the expected electorate are properly represented based on historical turnout.