New Poll Reveals Overwhelming Support in Maryland for Repealing State’s Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Offenses

Post Date: November 24, 2015

Voters Think State Spends Too Much on Jail, Not Enough on Rehabilitation

WASHINGTON, DC – Families Against Mandatory Minimum (FAMM) President Julie Stewart today released the results of a new poll of Maryland residents, which revealed that an overwhelming 70 percent of Maryland residents support repealing mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses. FAMM commissioned the poll, which was conducted November 17-19 by Harper Polling, a national polling company led by the former polling director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. (See below for a presentation of the results, or click here for a PDF version.) 

“Maryland earlier this year passed a strong, bipartisan bill to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenders,” said Ms. Stewart. “These poll results make clear the public – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike – want state leaders to go even further and pull these counterproductive laws out by the roots.”

When told that, “some have proposed eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, giving judges the ability to make sentencing decisions in the context of each individual case,” an overwhelming 70% of likely voters favor “repealing mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses. Just 19% oppose.

Support was found across the political spectrum. Majorities of Republicans (68% favor, 24% oppose), Democrats (78%/14%) and Independents (67%/26%) all favor repealing mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenses. Self-identified Conservatives (61%/30%), Moderates (76%/17%) and Liberals (80%/16%) agree.

Among other results, the poll revealed that:

  • An astonishing 78% of likely voters in Maryland agree that “Maryland spends too much money locking up nonviolent drug offenders and should shift some funding to other priorities, like drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation programs that can stop addicts from becoming repeat offenders” (14% disagree). Self-identified conservatives (61%/29%), moderates (84%/5%) and liberals (86%/8%) all agree that funding should be shifted to drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation instead of incarcerating non-violent drug offenders;
  • A majority of voters favor “repealing mandatory minimums for gun possession during a drug offense,” when told that this would give “judges the ability to make sentencing decisions in the context of each individual case” (50% favor, 40% oppose). Both women (53%/39%) and men (48%/43%) favor repealing mandatory minimums for gun possession during a drug offense;   
  • Even when voters are asked about mandatory minimum laws generally, and not just about those that apply to nonviolent drug offenders, a plurality of Maryland voters favor repeal. When asked specifically about the mandatory minimum sentence for gun possession during the commission of a drug crime, 50% said they favor repealing the mandatory sentence so that judges can consider the context of each individual case. Just 40% support the mandatory minimum.

Poll was conducted by Harper Polling. Click here to see crosstab tables.

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