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Kentuckians Favor Prison Over Death Penalty As Punishment, Poll Says

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A new poll shows Kentuckians overwhelmingly support prison time over capital punishment for people convicted of first-degree murder.

Findings from a recent poll by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center show nearly 58 percent of people surveyed believe that lengthy prison terms, including life without parole, are preferable to the death penalty as punishment for conviction of first-degree murder.

Kentuckians also overwhelmingly support a halt to executions until problems with the state’s capital punishment system are addressed, according to the survey. More than 72 percent said they would support a decision by the governor to block executions until issues with the system could be addressed.

“It is important to note that this new poll shows that Kentuckians are increasingly concerned about the fairness of our criminal justice system,” said Marcia Milby Ridings, former president of the Kentucky Bar Association, in a news release.

Ridings is also a member of the American Bar Association assessment team that studied Kentucky’s death penalty. She said when the ABA released its 2011 assessment, 62 percent of Kentuckians surveyed supported a temporary halt to executions.

“Now, more than five years after we completed that examination and offered specific reforms, even more Kentuckians want action on those reforms before our state imposes the ultimate punishment in their names,” she said.

The poll, conducted between March 4 and April 30, included interviews with 684 adult Kentuckians. Its margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percent.

Support for the death penalty also dropped when respondents were given a choice of punishments for people convicted of first-degree murder.

Responses in support of the different punishments were:

  • Death penalty: 42.2 percent
  • Life in prison with no chance of parole: 35.4 percent
  • Life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years: 7.4 percent
  • Life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years: 2.1 percent
  • A sentence of 20-50 years with a chance of parole after 85 percent of the sentence is served: 13 percent

A bill that would have abolished the death penalty in Kentucky received its first legislative hearing earlier this year. It failed to advance the House Judiciary Committee by one vote.

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