For Immediate Release: November 15, 2018
Ben Schaefer, media contact for Pretrial Justice Institute, email@example.com | 646-200-5284
Caroline Espinosa, deputy director for Right on Crime, firstname.lastname@example.org |512-472-2700
Kelli Johnson, communications director for Texas Appleseed, email@example.com |512-473-2800 x103
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today the Pretrial Justice Institute released results of a statewide poll of voter attitudes toward Texas’s pretrial justice system and money bail. The results show 90 percent of registered Texas voters are dissatisfied with the criminal justice system overall and 55 percent want a complete overhaul or major change. The new poll from PJI, Right on Crime and Texas Appleseed shows Texas voters support changes in how the pretrial stage—the front door—of their criminal justice system operates.
“Texans are ready to join a national movement around ensuring that the criminal justice system protects public safety while ensuring people who are not a threat do not languish in jail simply because cannot pay an arbitrary amount of money” said Cherise Fanno Burdeen, chief executive officer of the Pretrial Justice Institute. Putting someone in jail is expensive, it can make people more dangerous, and it’s not even necessary to get people to return to court. Voters will support system stakeholders and elected officials as they take action toward making Texas’ pretrial justice system more safe, fair, and effective for everyone.”
The poll found, among other things, that 81 percent of Texas registered voters believe the wealthy enjoy substantially better outcomes in the criminal justice than poor and working-class people. Majorities also agree that community-based supports are more fair than money bail, and support providing services like education, counseling, and court reminders to people awaiting trial in the community.
Marc Levin, vice president of criminal justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right on Crime, stated: “This poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Texans support changes to our pretrial policies that prioritize public safety, rather than a person’s ability to pay. We have joined Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice in calling for sensible bail reforms and look forward to working with Texas lawmakers to deliver in the upcoming session on policy changes that advance public safety while protecting the constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence and due process.”
Other key findings include:
“Every Texan, rich or poor, deserves to be treated fairly in our courts, yet too often, pretrial liberty hinges on income in our current system,” said Mary Mergler, director of the Criminal Justice Project at Texas Appleseed. “By relying on existing evidence about best practices, Texas could improve the safety of communities across across the state, while ensuring justice for all.”
Nearly three-fourths of the people in Texas’ jails have not been convicted of the charges against them, and the cost of housing them exceeds $905 million every year. Three Texas counties (representing over a quarter of the state’s population) are being sued for their pretrial practices. The federals courts have ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in two of those lawsuits. In PJI’s 2017 State of Pretrial Justice in America report, Texas was one of 12 states to receive a grade of D.
Find a summary of the poll results here.
About the Poll
The survey was conducted by phone using professional interviewers and reached 606 Texas voters (unweighted); the results were then weighted into the base sample to represent their natural distribution in the electorate (N=560). The survey was conducted May 2-17, 2018.
Respondents in the poll identified as follows: Democrat (39 percent); Republican (36 percent) and independent (13 percent). The remaining respondents (12%) volunteered “other” or “don’t know”.
About the Pretrial Justice Institute
The Pretrial Justice Institute (PJI) is a national organization working to advance safe, fair, and effective pretrial justice that honors and protects all people. “Pretrial” refers to the portion of the criminal justice system that extends from a person’s first contact with law enforcement until any resulting charges are resolved, through a trial, dismissal, or a plea. To learn more about PJI, visit www.pretrial.org.
Follow us on Twitter (@pretrial) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/pretrial)
About Right on Crime
Right on Crime is a national campaign of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, in partnership with the American Conservative Union Foundation and Prison Fellowship, that supports conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs. The movement was born in Texas in 2007, and in recent years, dozens of states such as Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, have led the way in implementing conservative criminal justice reforms. To learn more, www.rightoncrime.com.
About Texas Appleseed
Texas Appleseed is a public interest justice center that works to change unjust laws and policies that prevent Texans from realizing their full potential. Our nonprofit conducts data-driven research that uncovers inequity in laws and policies and identifies solutions for lasting, concrete change. To learn more, www.TexasAppleseed.org.