A first-of-its-kind national survey released by the Alliance for Safety and Justice bucks conventional wisdom regarding the views of crime victims/survivors on incarceration.
Despite popular assumptions that crime victims/survivors support long sentences and prison expansion, the National Survey of Victims’ Views finds that survivors would prefer the criminal justice system focus more on rehabilitation than punishment by a 2 to 1 margin.
In fact, 61 percent of crime survivors support shorter prison sentences and more spending on prevention and rehabilitation to long prison sentences. The vast majority of survivors also prefer investments in education, mental health treatment, drug treatment, and job training to more spending on prisons and jails.
By a margin of nearly 3 to 1, crime survivors believe that time in prison makes people more likely to commit another crime rather than less likely. These views cut across demographic groups, with wide support across race, age, gender, and political party affiliation.
Support for reform and a new approach to safety and justice policy is strong even among survivors of violent crimes. The survey, which interviewed 800 crime survivors across the country, included both survivors of non-violent crime and survivors of violent crime including the most serious crimes of rape or murder of a family member.
“More than 2.2 million people are in prisons and jails across the country and the U.S. spends more than 80 billion dollars each year locking people up,” said Robert Rooks, Vice President, Alliance for Safety and Justice. “Yet the findings show that America’s investments in our current criminal justice system do not align with the views of crime victims or meet their needs.”
The survey finds that survivors of crime experience significant challenges in recovery and healing—8 in 10 report experiencing at least one symptom of trauma. The survey found 2 out of 3 survivors did not receive help following the incident, and those who did were far more likely to receive it from family and friends than the criminal justice system.
One in four people have been victimized in the past 10 years, but that impact is not evenly felt across the country. The study finds survivors of crime are more likely to be low-income, young and people of color; furthermore, people with the lowest levels of education, income and economic status are more likely to experience repeat victimization and serious violent crime.
Instead of more spending on incarceration, survivors want a wide range of investments in new safety priorities:
- By a margin of 15 to 1, victims prefer increased investments in schools and education to more investments in prisons and jails
- By a margin of 10 to 1, victims prefer increased investments in job creation to more
investments in prisons and jails
- By a margin of 7 to 1, victims prefer increased investments in mental health treatment to more investments in prisons and jails
- By a margin of 7 to 1 victims prefer increased investments in crime prevention and
programs for at-risk youth to more investments in prisons and jails
- By a margin of 4 to 1 victims prefer increased investments in drug treatment to more investments in prisons and jails
The full report, survivors’ profiles and a video featuring crime survivors are featured at
Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. ASJ partners with state leaders, advocates and crime survivors to advance policies to replace prison waste with new safety priorities that will help the communities most harmed by crime and violence. Reprinted press release from Alliance for Safety and Justice.