Poll: Big Support for Criminal Justice Reform in Illinois

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A new poll found that a majority of registered Illinois voters favor criminal justice reform and would support political candidates who favor it as well.

The Illinois Policy Institute surveyed 500 voters, and found the following.

  • 56% say the current criminal justice system is unfair, and 58% said the system is ineffective at keeping communities safe.
  • 88% support allowing judges discretion in sentencing instead of mandatory minimum sentences.
  • 63% of registered voters support ending money bail and replacing it with a risk-assessment system.
  • By a margin of 53% to 9%, registered voters report they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports reforms to lower the number of nonviolent offenders in Illinois’ prisons.

The poll questions and results can be found online here:

Because the issues are complex, however, the questions used in the poll could at times seem a bit loaded.

For instance, on the topic of civil asset forfeiture, the pollsters asked, “In Illinois, civil asset forfeiture laws let law enforcement seize a person’s cash or property if they suspect it has been involved in criminal activity. Under these laws, the property owner does not have to be convicted or even be charged with a crime to lose their property. In your opinion, should police be allowed to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime?”

In a news release which came with the polling summary information, the Illinois Policy Institute summarized that 89% of people oppose civil asset forfeiture laws, but their question could be interpreted to address the forfeiture of property of only those who are not convicted of a crime, which would obviously have little public support.

Nonetheless, the Policy Institute believes to overall response does indicate a popular desire for reforms.  “Despite widespread political polarization, Illinois voters are in agreement on at least one thing: the need for bold criminal-justice reform,” said Bryant Jackson-Green, criminal-justice analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute said in the news release.

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