Nearly Half in U.S. Say There Are Too Many Inmates, 1/5 Could be Freed


Nearly half of Americans told a new survey they believe there are too many prisoners in the U.S., says the Pew Center on the States. The survey of 1,200 likely voters found that 45 percent said there were too many prisoners, 28 percent called the number about right, 13 percent said there are too few, and 14 percent didn’t know. On average, voters believed that one-fifth of prisoners could be released without threatening public safety. The survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and the Mellman Group.

In other findings, 48 percent said it would be acceptable to reduce funding for state prisons. Eighty-four percent favored keeping violent criminals in prison for their full sentences. Large majorities favored reducing prison time for low-risk, non-violent offenders. Some 87 percent said they would allow such inmates to be released up to a year early if they have behaved well and are considered a low risk for recidivism. When given a choice between violent offenders serving five years in prison or four years of a five-year term, followed by supervision for a year, respondents favored the shorter-sentence-plus-supervision option, 67 percent to 26 percent.

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