Focus groups, like polls, should more than likely be taken with a grain of salt. But a focus group in Pennsylvania however may actually reflect popular sentiment in what forecasters are calling a battleground state in this year’s election.
During the first presidential debate, strategist Frank Lutz convened a focus group to gauge their responses to both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s performance. According to the data, the group of 27 individuals, many of whom were undecided, were impressed with Clinton’s position on criminal justice reform, specifically her stated objective to close private prisons.
Clinton had her fair share of ups and downs as well [in terms of audience receptiveness] … But her numbers among completely undecided voters went high and higher during her discussion of overhauling the criminal-justice system. When she pointed out that crime isn’t nearly as high as Trump suggests and that the system punishes black and Hispanic men more harshly than white men, the favourability number kept going up. And it went even higher when she praised the Department of Justice’s announcement that it would phase out Bureau of Prisons contracts to stop doing deals with private prison companies. And the number went up even more when Clinton reiterated her position to end all federal contracts with the for-profit corporations.
The participants in the focus group stated that the notorious “Kids for Cash” scandal—a Pennsylvania juvenile judge was sentencing youth to a private, for-profit prison in violation of their rights and for monetary gain—was still fresh in their minds, even though the judge was sentenced to prison five years ago.
A number of Luntz’s focus-group attendees said Clinton’s opposition to private prisons made them think more highly of her. And none saw it as a negative.
Ban private prisons
Clinton first spoke out against the private prison industry last fall, saying she would ban the institutions once elected. She also stated that monies donated to her campaign by industry groups would be donated to charity. Clinton reiterated her position on closing private prisons this past spring when President Obama announced the closing of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where terrorist suspects are held.
For profit prison
According to CNN Money, Clinton’s call for ending private prisons on Monday significantly lowered the stocks of Corrections Corp. of America and GEO Group, two of the largest for-profit prison enterprises in the U.S.