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CRF Blog » Blog Archive » Proposition 36: California’s Three Strikes Law

CRF Blog

Proposition 36: California’s Three Strikes Law

Note: This is the third in a series examining California ballot propositions.

by Damon Huss

On the November 6 ballot, Californians will have an opportunity to modify the state’s three strikes law. Approved by a majority of voters in 1994, the current three strikes law requires that a person convicted of two or more previous violent or serious felonies faces a prison sentence of life with the earliest possible parole after 25 years for any new felony conviction, even if the new felony conviction is non-serious or non-violent. The new felony conviction is called the “third strike.”

Violent felonies include rape, robbery, and murder. Almost all violent felonies are also considered “serious.”

According to the state’s non-partisan legislative analyst, Proposition 36 would do the following:

This measure reduces prison sentences served under the three strikes law by certain third strikers whose current offenses are nonserious, non-violent felonies. The measure also allows resentencing of certain third strikers who are currently serving life sentences for specified nonserious, non-violent felonies…. [more]

What do you think?

PRO — An editorial in the Lompoc Record says:

A major flaw in the existing three-strikes law is that some people are given life behind bars for low-level third-strike felonies, which tends to fill prisons with three-strikers who aren’t necessarily a threat to society.

Prop. 36 doesn’t let those third-strike criminals completely off the hook. A non-violent third strike would earn a sentence twice what such an offense would normally draw — while saving taxpayers an estimated $100 million over the next decade. [more]

CON — An editorial in The Record Searchlight of Redding says:

Well, sorry, but by the nature of their histories, that’s exactly who “three strikes” inmates are. Every one of them has already been to prison, been given another chance, and turned to crime again. They’ve proven they can’t live in society.

And a third felony does not lead automatically to a 25-to-life sentence. There’s already flexibility in the system. Prosecutors — who work for elected district attorneys responsive to the voters — can choose whether to charge strikes. Judges can and do dismiss prior felonies when it serves the interest of justice. [more]