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S⁠t⁠a⁠t⁠ew⁠i⁠de Poll on Ba⁠i⁠l Reform Shows Flor⁠i⁠da Vo⁠t⁠ers Are Ready ⁠t⁠o Improve Pre⁠t⁠r⁠i⁠al Jus⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ce

By: The James Madison Institute / 2018

For Immediate Release: October 16, 2018


Ben Schaefer, media contact for Pretrial Justice Institute


Logan Padgett, media contact for James Madison Institute


Statewide Poll on Bail Reform Shows Florida Voters Are Ready
to Improve Pretrial Justice

Results announced by the Pretrial Justice Institute and the James Madison Institute

The Pretrial Justice Institute and the James Madison Institute today released the results of a statewide public opinion poll that examines registered Florida voters’ views of the pretrial justice system and money bail. The new data show that Floridians are ready for change. Among the key findings: Florida voters support limiting pretrial detention to people who pose a threat to community safety and providing community-based services to help others succeed in the community before trial.

“Floridians are ready to join a nationwide movement to end money bail and to reshape our pretrial justice system to prioritize safety, fairness, and equity,” said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, chief executive officer of the Pretrial Justice Institute. “Voters will support system stakeholders and elected officials as they shift public policy to commonsense alternatives that protect public safety in a more equitable way that serves everyone.”

The poll found that a majority of Florida registered voters believe the criminal justice system does not treat all people fairly. Four out five said the wealthy enjoy significantly better outcomes than do poor and working-class people, while 59 percent said that white people are treated better by the criminal justice system than are people of color.

“Criminal justice policies should ultimately do two things: They should advance public safety and they should wisely steward tax dollars,” said Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy and director of the Center for Economic Prosperity at the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute. “While our great state has done things really well over the last 20 years, when it comes to pretrial justice, it’s clear from the data and public sentiment that we have room to improve. JMI looks forward to continuing to educate the public and policymakers on ideas like pretrial release reform in 2019.”

“These poll results confirm what we have believed for a long time,” said Raymer Maguire, criminal justice reform manager of the ACLU of Florida. “Floridians do not want pretrial detention to be determined by the size of an accused person’s bank account. Florida desperately needs common-sense money bail reforms that reduce racial disparities, reduce crime and recidivism, and save taxpayers’ money. We cannot tackle the over-incarceration of Floridians without starting with the tens of thousands of people who have not been found guilty of a crime but remain locked up on any given day.”

Other key findings from the poll include:

  • 78 percent of registered Florida voters favor reducing the number of arrests for low-level, nonviolent offenses by issuing citations.
  • 82 percent favor providing court reminders or supervision for people awaiting trial in the community.
  • 55 percent of voters think prosecutors should have to make the case for pretrial detention, rather than arrested people having to make the case for their own release.

These findings present an important message for system stakeholders and elected officials who determine pretrial policies and practices. Florida voters support change. They believe the current system is too quick to jail people, often in ways that do not serve public safety, voters’ top priority. They also understand that there are commonsense alternatives to detention—and the more voters learn about programs such as community-based supports and services, the stronger their backing for reduced reliance on money bond.

“Florida’s current criminal justice system is on an unsustainable course, which will require comprehensive reform. “Pretrial and bail reform are an important part of that conversation. We thank JMI and PJI for bringing pretrial justice to the forefront,” said Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes (R).

The poll was commissioned by the Pretrial Justice Institute and was designed and administered by Lake Research Partners. The survey was designed in partnership with the Charles Koch Institute.The survey was conducted by phone using professional interviewers and reached a total of 717 registered voters (weighted sample of N=664) in Florida. The survey was conducted May 2–17, 2018.

Find a report on the poll results here.

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