Criminal Justice

New Poll: Strong Majority of Floridians Agree The Time For Criminal Justice Reform is Now

September 16, 2016

Floridians overwhelmingly support criminal justice reform, according to a new public opinion survey released by The James Madison Institute and Stand Together Trust.

“For the past few years as we’ve worked in the criminal justice arena, we have experienced first hand the changing debate on these issues. The poll solidified what we’ve come to know—Floridians want criminal justice reform,” said Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy at the James Madison Institute (JMI). “We’ve been talking the talk and now it is time to walk the walk. Policymakers should take serious strides toward improving the outcomes of those within the criminal justice system, increasing public safety and continuing to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

The poll results show that Floridians are dissatisfied with the status quo:

Systemic Problems

  • 72 percent of Floridians agree or strongly agree that it is important to reform the criminal justice system in Florida.
  • 75 percent of Floridians agree or strongly agree that the prison population is costing our country too much money.
  • Almost two-thirds of Floridians believe there are too many nonviolent offenders in prison.

Collateral Consequences of Incarceration

  • 72 percent believe felons should be able to get licenses to work after they finish serving their sentences.
  • 74 percent believe prisons should focus more on rehabilitation than punishment.

Fixing Juvenile Justice

  • 70 percent believe juveniles should be held in a system separate from adult offenders.
  • When asked who Floridians trust more to make decisions about whether to charge a juvenile as an adult, those polled overwhelmingly choose judges over prosecutors by a 47-point margin.

“Across the country dozens of states have enacted meaningful criminal justice reforms to improve public safety, reduce costs, respect the dignity of individuals, and make victims whole,” said Vikrant P. Reddy, senior research fellow at Stand Together Trust.

“For years, Florida, one of the largest and most influential states in the country, had remained the exception. But recent changes to mandatory minimum sentencing, improved civil asset forfeiture practices, and a renewed focus on mental health treatment demonstrate that things are changing in the Sunshine State. Florida’s leaders should continue this momentum, listen to their constituents, and keep working toward enacting criminal justice reforms.”

The survey was conducted by Survey Sampling International in July 2016. All participants were residents of Florida and were surveyed by use of an opt-in Web-based panel. The survey had 1,488 total respondents in English and Spanish with a +/- 3 percentage points margin of error.


Founded in 1987, The James Madison Institute is one of Florida’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organizations. JMI is dedicated to maximizing opportunities for all by promoting economic freedom, limited government and personal liberty.


Stand Together Trust is an educational organization focused on the importance of free societies and how they increase well-being for the overwhelming majority of people. Through the Institute’s professional education, research, and training programs, we work to prepare professionals for careers that improve well-being by advancing free societies.