Smart Justice 2020 Poll

January 29, 2020

A new statewide poll of Vermont voters shows “strong, consistent, and broad-based support” for criminal justice reform, with two in three voters supporting a reduction in the prison population through investments in community-based alternatives, and a majority saying they “strongly” support such reforms.

These findings come as legislators are working to advance a major criminal justice overhaul, part of an ongoing “Justice Reinvestment” process. The Senate Judiciary Committee introduced sweeping legislation last week to reform Vermont’s community supervision system, institute presumptive parole, and reduce sentence lengths for good behavior, which could significantly reduce the number of people in Vermont's prisons.

The poll showed support for a wide range of specific policy reforms, several of which are now under consideration in the legislature. They include:

  • 81 percent of voters said they support community-based alternatives to incarceration for offenses resulting from substance misuse, mental health conditions, and poverty, with 57 percent voicing “strong support.”
  • Two in three people support reforming Vermont’s community supervision system, including eliminating the practice of returning people to prison for “technical violations” like drinking or being late for curfew.  
  • 77 percent support better system-wide data collection, including from courts and elected prosecutors, with 55 percent showing “strong support.”
  • 70 percent support reforming Vermont's sentencing laws to reduce sentence lengths to be consistent with current research and best practices.

The results are consistent with a May 2018 poll showing two in three Vermont voters were more likely to support candidates who would reduce the number of people in Vermont’s prisons and increase alternatives to incarceration like drug treatment and restorative justice.

The poll of 500 Vermonters was conducted earlier this month by Lake Research Partners and has a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.

The press release announcing the poll results is here.

Read or download the poll memo below!