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March 11, 2020

Fascinating work by the Marshall Project and Slate to survey "the Politics of People Behind Bars"

The Marshall Project and Slate today released a series of terrific pieces based on a "first-of-its-kind political survey" of the persons who are currently incarcerated.  Here is how this main piece, headlined "What Do We Really Know About the Politics of People Behind Bars?", gets started:

A simple question at a Bernie Sanders town hall last spring sparked a debate new to prime time: Should incarcerated people be allowed to vote? S anders said yes — his home state of Vermont (and its neighbor, Maine) are the only states to give all people in prison that right.  Later, Joe Biden said no.

Yet in a country awash in political polling, the views of those who are most affected remain a mystery: the 2.3 million people behind bars.  Do they want to vote? If given the right, who would they vote for? What issues do they care about most?  No one’s ever really asked.

This is why The Marshall Project partnered with Slate to conduct the first-of-its-kind political survey inside prisons and jails across the country.  Now that criminal justice is a campaign issue and many states are restoring voting rights to those convicted of felonies, we asked thousands of incarcerated people across the country for their opinions on criminal justice reform, which political party they identify with and which presidential candidate they’d support.  We heard from more than 8,000 people. Here’s what we found:

  • A plurality of white respondents back President Donald Trump, undercutting claims that people in prison would overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.
  • Long stretches in prison appear to be politicizing: The more time respondents spend in prison, the more motivated they are to vote, the more they discuss politics, and the more likely their opinions are to evolve.
  • Perspectives change inside prison. Republicans behind bars back policies like legalizing marijuana that are less popular with GOP voters on the outside; Democrats inside prison are less enthusiastic about an assault weapons ban than Democrats at large.
  • Political views diverged by race. Black respondents are the only group pointing to reducing racial bias in criminal justice as a top concern; almost every other group picked reducing the prison population as a top criminal justice priority.

Many respondents’ answers reflected the crucible of their own experiences—offering new insights into issues often discussed from a distance on a debate stage.

Here are links to the companion pieces:

"Millennials, Meth and Mass Incarceration: We asked incarcerated people to weigh in on the biggest issue facing the country today. Here is what they said."

"How We Pulled Off A Groundbreaking Political Survey Behind Bars: More than 8,000 incarcerated people responded."

UPDATE: These two additional article were published from this fascinating survey on Thursday:

"Trump's Surprising Popularity in Prison: Many incarcerated white people said they'd re-elect the president — if given the chance."

"For Those Serving Long Sentences, Politics is a Lifeline: Respondents who’ve spent decades behind bars were more politically engaged than their peers, but they’re also the most cynical."

March 11, 2020 at 11:22 PM | Permalink

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