(Angus Reid Global Monitor) – A large majority of people in the United States say the country’s penitentiary system fails at helping prisoners become law-abiding citizens, according to a poll by Angus Reid Public Opinion. 75 per cent of respondents share this point of view.

Americans also hold negative views about other aspects of the country’s judicial system. 50 per cent of respondents say their criminal courts do a good job in determining the guilt of accused offenders, while 42 per cent think this is not the case. In addition, 67 per cent of Americans think their justice system does not treat every person fairly.

On Jun. 18, Ronnie Lee Gardner, a killer sentenced to death, was executed by firing squad in Utah. Only three prisoners have faced a firing squad in the U.S. over the past three decades.

Several judges at different levels of the justice system, including the Utah Supreme Court, had recently denied Gardner’s plea for commuting his sentence to life in prison. Andrew Parnes, Gardner’s lawyer, had argued on behalf of his client, saying, "He asserts that executing him now, after nearly 25 years on death-row in Utah, so lacks retributive or deterrent value that it violates the Eighth Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution]."

Polling Data

Do you agree or disagree with each of these statements?




Not sure

The justice system in the U.S. treats every person fairly




The criminal courts in the U.S. do a good job in determining whether or not an accused person is guilty




The prison system in the U.S. does a good job in helping prisoners become law-abiding




Source: Angus Reid Public Opinion
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,021 American adults, conducted on Jun. 9 and Jun. 10, 2010. Margin of error is 3.1 per cent.

Complete Poll (PDF)