Jul 27, 2018

Likely Voters Overwhelmingly Want Senate to Pass FIRST STEP Act

Post by Freedom Partners

A new survey, released yesterday by Freedom Partners, shows that 70 percent of likely voters nationwide believe the Senate should pass the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act. The prison reform bill cleared the House overwhelmingly in May, and now more than 180,000 federally incarcerated individuals and their families wait to see if it will advance to the president’s desk.

Recent data shows that three out of every four individuals will be rearrested within five years following their release from prison. The FIRST STEP Act aims to reduce this alarmingly high recidivism rate. One of its main focuses is rehabilitation — a responsibility that 68 percent of survey takers said is a primary purpose of the criminal justice system, along with punishing offenders.

Other key findings include:

  • 70 percent of survey takers said they would be more supportive of the act if President Donald Trump endorses it.
  • 47 percent of respondents — including almost one-third of registered Republican voters — said they will have a more negative view of Senate Republicans if they fail to pass the bill.
  • 60 percent of survey takers said they were more likely to support a candidate if they knew he or she supports criminal justice reform.

The need to act is clear. Reducing the recidivism rate will reduce crime, reunite families, and restore lives. Reducing crime and keeping people out of prison will lead to significant cost savings, too. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers:

On average, programs that address the prisoner’s mental health or substance abuse problems may reduce the cost of crime by about $0.92 to $3.31 per taxpayer dollar spent on prison reform and long-run incarceration costs by $0.55 to $1.96, for a total return of $1.47 to $5.27 per taxpayer dollar.

There are nearly 184,000 individuals in federal prison, supported by taxpayer dollars. Roughly 96 percent of them will eventually be released back into our communities. The majority of survey takers agreed the criminal justice system has a duty to prepare incarcerated individuals for release through rehabilitation programs.

The FIRST STEP Act would also ban the shackling of pregnant inmates (72 percent of survey takers believe shackling should not be allowed during childbirth) and require inmates, based on their level of risk, to be placed in facilities within 500 driving miles of their primary residence. Research has proven consistent familial connections help facilitate rehabilitation.

Senators should seize this opportunity to unite and pass bipartisan legislation that will make our neighborhoods safer and help hundreds of thousands of people rebuild their lives. Americans agree: Members of the Senate should pass the FIRST STEP Act without delay.