Americans, Britons and Canadians Endorse Alternative Penalties
Few respondents in the three countries believe their respective prison systems are equipped to allow prisoners to re-enter society.
People in the United States, Britain and Canada hold differing views on specific elements of their justice systems, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.
The online survey of representative national samples shows that respondents support the notion of using alternative penalties rather than prison for non-violent offences, and that just one-in-five believe their prison system does a good job in helping prisoners become law-abiding.
The main community concern for Canadians at this point is health care and hospitals (31%), followed by the economy (26%) and unemployment (18%). Americans and Britons are definitely more worried about financial matters. The economy is the number one community concern for Americans (45%), followed by unemployment. In Britain, 35 per cent of respondents cite unemployment as their community’s main problem, followed by the economy (32%).
Views on Crime
More than a third of Britons (35%), Canadians (39%) and Americans (45%) believe that there has been an increase in the amount of crime in their community over the past five years. People in Britain are more likely to fear becoming victims of crime (39%) than those in the United States (35%) and Canada (27%).
In the past two years, 18 per cent of Britons, 13 per cent of Canadians and 12 per cent of Americans say they have been victims of a crime which involved the police, such as an assault, a car break-in or some other type of crime.
Majorities of respondents in the three countries (Britain 56%, Canada 68%, United States 74%) welcome the concept of using alternative penalties—such as fines, probation or community service—rather than prison for non-violent offenders. At least seven-in-ten Britons (70%), Americans (74%) and Canadians (78%) believe personal marijuana use should be dealt with through alternative penalties. Support for similar guidelines for credit card fraud, drunk driving and arson is decidedly lower.
Most respondents (51% in the United States, 56% in Britain and 61% in Canada) believe the criminal courts in their respective countries do a good job in determining whether or not an accused person is guilty. However, Canadians are slightly more likely to believe that their justice system treats every person fairly (38%) than Britons (35%) and Americans (28%).
The three countries exemplify a low level of confidence in the prison system, with just one-in-five respondents (20% in Britain, 19% in Canada and 18% in the United States) believing that it does a good job in helping prisoners become law-abiding.