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Broad Bi-partisan Support for Bold Pre-trial Reforms in New York State

Introduction

As Albany debates pre-trial reform, voters across the political spectrum agree that New York State incarcerates too many individuals while they wait for their trials and overwhelmingly support pre-trial reforms to shorten case processing times and prevent defendants from taking plea deals before evidence is shared with them. New Yorkers are in favor of broad limits on pre-trial detention, including indicating strong support for a proposal that would keep individuals in jail before trial only if they are accused of a serious felony and deemed a flight risk. Support for pre-trial reform only increases after voters hear a simulated debate, indicating that voters’ already robust support is likely to increase and intensify the more they hear about this issue.

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle clearly stand to benefit from supporting criminal justice reform. Proposed reforms earn strong support from left-leaning voters who Democratic candidates will need to turn out in November and also garner high support from Republican voters who see them as common-sense measures that will save taxpayer money at a time when New York taxpayers are feeling particularly squeezed. Additionally, criminal justice reforms are widely supported by independent voters and voters in key swing areas of the state who are most likely to tip the balance of elections this year.

Voters widely support ending pre-trial jail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies.

Just over seven in ten (71 percent support/24 percent oppose) support this proposal to limit pre-trial detention, including nearly half (47 percent) who support it strongly. Further, majorities across partisan, demographic, and regional lines support ending pre-trial detention for people accused of 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.

This proposal has nearly three-quarters support (73 percent support/23 percent oppose), with one-half of voters (50 percent) strongly supporting it. Again, support spans across major subgroups of the electorate.

There is broad support for setting a firm speedy trial requirement.

New Yorkers widely believe that cases should move to trial in a timely manner, as 86 percent believe a trial must start within four months to fit the definition of a “speedy” trial as dictated by the U.S. Constitution and a majority (59 percent) believe “speedy” trials must start within eight weeks. Fully nine in 10 voters (90 percent support/8 percent oppose) support 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, including clear majorities across party, and region.

Voters believe that it’s a waste of taxpayer money to keep people accused of non-violent crimes in jail while they await trial.

Over eight in ten voters (82 percent agree/14 percent disagree) agree that taxpayer dollars are wasted when people accused of non-violent crimes wait in jail for their trial, with 60 percent strongly agreeing. Voters throughout the state reach clear consensus that this process wastes taxpayers’ money:

  • Democrats – 88 percent agree
  • Independents – 86 percent agree
  • Republicans – 69 percent agree, including 64 percent of conservative Republicans
  • Upstate – 81 percent agree, including 81 percent in rural upstate areas
  • New York City suburbs – 78 percent agree, including 73 percent on Long Island
  • New York City – 88 percent agree

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 percent support/24 percent oppose to 80 percent/14 percent) and strong support increases by six points (from 47 percent to 53 percent).

  • Democrats – 85 percent support
  • Independents – 78 percent support
  • Republicans – 73 percent support, including 69 percent of conservative Republicans
  • Upstate – 78 percent support, including 77 percent in rural Upstate areas
  • New York City Suburbs – 75 percent support, including 74 percent on Long Island
  • New York City – 88 percent support

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 percent) 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 percent) or those who have not been victims of crime (70 percent). A similar number of crime victims (75 percent) 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 percent) or those who haven’t been victims of crimes (73 percent).

Crime victims show near universal support (96 percent support, 88 percent strong support) for creating a firm speedy trial requirement, as this population again is even more supportive of reform than voters overall (90 percent support, 78 percent strongly) or those who haven’t been victims of crime (88 percent support, 74 percent 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 percent support, 63 percent strong support) than voters overall (78 percent support, 53 percent strong support) or those who have not been victims of crime (75 percent support, 49 percent 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.

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