A recent poll conducted by the ACLU reveals that a majority of Coloradans from diverse backgrounds support the reduction of the prison population.

Last week’s voter poll briefing by the ACLU was issued to 1,223 likely voters throughout the state of Colorado. Implemented by the African American Research Collaborative (AARC), the poll specifically centered young Black and Latinx voters across the state.

Key findings were presented in a virtual briefing on September 13 at 11:30 AM MST. A recording is available here.

Among the findings included unexpected data regarding voters’ perceptions of the incarceration system.

Of all respondents, 74% agreed that individuals in prison should have received mental health or drug addiction services rather than prison sentences. 

70% of voters polled agreed that prisons should be reserved for “dangerous people who pose a violent threat,” with a similar number asserting that the incarceration system is costly for Colorado taxpayers.

A majority of individuals also supported giving those in prison a second chance, cutting prison spending and investing in education, and reducing the length of prison sentences.

About ⅔ of Coloradans surveyed believed in the prevalence of discrimination and bias in the prison system, with Black individuals six times as likely to be incarcerated compared to their White counterparts, and Latinos more than twice likely.

Although many voters shared this view, this statement was listed as the top concern among Black voters and the second or third concern among Latinx voters.

56% of voters believe the state should invest in drug prevention and treatment rather than incarcerate individuals found in possession of the drug. Young voters were especially in favor of increased social services for individuals found in possession of fentanyl, with 69% in support. The increased prevalence of the dangerously potent drug has seen legislators wrestling with treatment and criminal enforcement policies in recent sessions.

During the briefing, presenter Isaiah Bailey emphasized the significance of these findings and the high level of support across all voting blocks: “The biggest thing that I’d really like to highlight here is the bipartisan, or inter-ideological, nature of the support of some of these civil rights issues.” 

“In today’s political climate,” he continued, “especially when we talk about civil rights issues and we discuss civil liberties, it often becomes a conversation of what people on the left may believe versus what people on the right may believe. But … what we really see here is … strong support across the spectrum on many of these issues.”

Currently, 35,000 people from Colorado are detained in various facilities. The state has an incarceration rate of 614 per 100,000 people, exceeding the entirety of the United Kingdom at a rate of 129 per 100,000 people and falling just short of the national statistics.