When voters in Florida and around the country are asked about the issues they care about the most, crime is usually one of the first things they mention. The United States has one of the world’s highest crime rates even though it imprisons far more of its citizens than any other country, so it appears that what is currently being done to improve public safety is not really working. With that in mind, a leading criminal justice reform advocacy group polled Americans from both sides of the political aisle to find out what they would like to see done to combat crime.
Prevention rather than punishment
The results of the poll suggest that Americans from across the political spectrum prefer measures that could prevent crime over harsher sentencing for criminals. This suggests the public understands that crime is often driven by substance abuse, mental illnesses and economic hardship. The individuals polled said they supported programs that would improve schools and reduce economic inequality, but they were less enthusiastic about efforts to reduce crime that focus on putting more police officers on the street and building more prisons.
Young, Black and Latino respondents
The preference for crime prevention policies was especially pronounced among Black, Latino and young respondents. Two-thirds of the respondents between 18 and 35 years of age and most of the Black and Latino respondents said that they supported the prevention-first approach. Advocacy groups and criminal defense attorneys have been calling for policing reforms for many years, and they cite the war on drugs as a tough on crime failure. Millions have been incarcerated and more than a trillion dollars has been spent since the war on drugs was launched in 1971, but victory remains as elusive as ever.
The kind of reforms the respondents support may be introduced because they make financial sense. Incarcerating drug addicts costs far more than treating them, and programs that improve underserved communities are far less expensive than hiring thousands of new police officers.