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US Voters Support Prisoner Rehabilitation

From every age, gender, economic, political, cultural and ethnic group and every geographic area, Americans overwhelmingly support the rehabilitation of non-violent criminals both before and after prison, a new poll by Zogby International shows.

Three out of four Americans expressed either fear or concern about the 700,000 prisoners who leave U.S. prisons each year, and the 60% of them likely to commit crimes that send them back to prison, Zogby's national survey showed. The February 2006 poll explored what people think ought to be done about the situation.

The survey sponsored by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) reveals that by almost a 9 to 1 margin (87% to 11%), the U.S. voting public favors rehabilitative services for prisoners as opposed to a punishment only system. Of those polled, 70% favored these services during incarceration and after release.

Likely voters appear to recognize that our current "correctional system" does not help correct the problem of crime, the survey indicates.

By strong majorities, Americans said they feel that a lack of life skills, the experience of being in prison, and many obstacles faced upon community reentry are major factors in crimes that prisoners commit following their release.

By an overwhelming majority (82%), people feel that the lack of job training and job opportunities were significant barriers to those released prisoners who wanted to avoid committing subsequent crimes.

Similar large majorities saw the lack of housing, medical and mental health services, drug treatment, family support and mentoring as additional barriers -- and believe that all of these services should be available to returning prisoners. Most of the respondents felt that reentry services must be introduced to prisoners long before they're released.

When asked about pending legislation making federal funds available to communities for services in support of successful reentry (The Second Chance Act, esp.), 78% were in support -- and 40% of those strongly supported such assistance.

Dr. Barry Krisberg, President of NCCD, said "these survey results tell us that Americans have looked at the 30-year experiment on getting tough with offenders and decided it is no longer working. We have built up an unprecedented prison population of over 2 million, but most of these offenders are returning home each year with few skills or support to keep them from going back to lives of crime."

The survey was conducted Feb. 15-18, 2006, and included 1,039 respondents. The poll carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.


(Editor: For more reading online about reentry, see our "Reentry Reform Now" section at

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