Most Louisianans support criminal justice reform, according to the 2017 Louisiana Survey. According to the poll from the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, 75 percent of voters support shorter sentences for non-violent crimes.
But Dr. Michael Henderson says they asked respondents about particular offenses like fraud, burglary or selling illegal drugs and support for shorter sentences drops.
He says this finding could shape the debate in the legislative session.
“If opponents to the proposals start trying to get people to think about the particular kinds of crime that might qualify, that could shape what people think about the proposals on the table,” Henderson said.
Governor John Bel Edwards plans to push criminal justice reform in the legislative session that begins next week. Henderson says their survey found a big difference between blacks and whites over the fairness of the criminal justice system. Henderson says 71 percent of black respondents say the system is not fair, only 44 percent of white respondents agree.
“So this is not just a cry out by everybody saying the system is unfair and it needs to be fixed. It seems to be that from some people’s viewpoints that seems to be one of the motivations,” Henderson said.
Henderson says another interesting point from the survey is that 65 percent of respondents say crime has increased over the past five years. That’s a 10-percent increase from the last time they asked this question. But he says the overall crime rates don’t line up with public opinion about crime rates.
“Why this is going on, that’s an open question. There certainly has been a lot of talk about crime in the presidential campaign last year, and that may have sparked some of this. There’s been some high profile incidents, and that may have sparked some of this,” Henderson said.