Nearly 8 in 10 Americans favor non-prison sentences for minor crimes, but opinion is more divided on other key sentencing issues, says a new survey commissioned by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. When asked whether alternatives to incarceration were more effective than prison or jail in reducing recidivism, respondents said yes, but only by a 45 to 38 percent margin. Only slightly over half believe non-prison penalties save money.
Respondents in the survey done by Zogby International were not particularly lenient. Four in ten (41 percent) agreed it is sometimes necessary to incarcerate a person who has been convicted of possession or use of illegal drugs (with no intention to sell and not while driving), and six in ten respondents think it is always or usually necessary to incarcerate a person who has violated the conditions of probation or parole. The council estimated that states and localities could save at least $7.2 billion if 80 percent of nonviolent, nonserious offenders were sentenced to effective programming as an alternative to prison.