Poll: Texans Strongly Support Criminal Justice Reforms


By Sarah Rumpf

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas voters strongly support the criminal justice reforms passed in recent years, and would like to see those reforms continue, says a new poll released by Right on Crime, a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).

The poll was conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research from February 24-26, 2015 of 1,000 likely voters across the state, with a margin of error of ±3.1%. Among the key findings from the poll:

  • 73 percent strongly support allowing non-violent drug offenders found guilty of possession to be sent to a drug treatment program instead of jail.
  • 61 percent prefer spending more money on effective treatment programs, as compared to the 26 percent who preferred spending more money on the prison system.
  • Regarding truancy reform, 71 percent only want the criminal justice system involved in severe cases of chronic truancy.
  • A majority of voters, 57 percent, support legislation that would raise the felony threshold to $1500 and adjust annually based on the rate of inflation.
  • The same majority, 57 percent, support legislation that would reduce time served, so that they could spend part of their sentence being monitored under community supervision.

Chris Perkins, one of the principals of the polling firm, said that the results showed that, “Texas voters strongly support the reforms the Legislature successfully implemented in 2007, and a strong majority of voters would like to see more reforms to our criminal justice system.”

Added Chuck DeVore, Vice President of Policy at TPPF, “The results of the poll indicate Texas voters’ appetite for common-sense, conservative reform. It’s been nearly a decade since Texas showed America that criminal justice reform could be more effective than locking people up and throwing away the key. Texas’ reforms have led to the lowest crime rate in decades. Voters now see a track record and are ready to build on it.”

“Texans are clearly demanding a different solution to the state’s criminal justice problems, especially when it comes to nonviolent offenders,” said Right on Crime Policy Director Marc Levin. “The primary reason to adopt these policies is that they are the most cost-effective way to fight crime, but it is reassuring to see that average Texans recognize this as well.”

Juvenile justice is one area where advocates for reform can show documented positive effects. As Breitbart Texas reported earlier this year, a nonpartisan study revealed positive effects from the juvenile justice reforms passed in Texas during recent years, with the state showing a significant drop in the juvenile incarceration rate while the juvenile crime rate also fell during the same time period.  According to this study by the Council of State Government’s Justice Center, from 2007 to 2012, the number of juveniles detained in Texas state facilities dropped from around 4,305 to about 1,500, a decrease of 66 percent, while the juvenile crime rate fell by a third.

Right on Crime has advocated for eliminating the use of criminal penalties to punish school truancy, and a bill addressing that topic has been filed this session.

[Disclosure: Sarah Rumpf was previously employed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.]

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.