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Three Strikes Law

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Today there is a growing awareness of repeat offenders among society in reference to crime. Starting around 1980 there was noticeable increase in crime rates in the U.S.. In many of these cases it was noted that these individuals were in fact repeat offenders. So, on March 7, 1994 California enacted the Three-Strikes and You're Out Law. This laws and other laws like it are currently being utilized today all around the Untied States. This law was first backed by victim's rights advocates in the state to target habitual offenders. The reason California holds the most importance on this law is due to the fact that it has the largest criminal justice system in America, and it has the most controversy surrounding this law in particular.(Auerhahn, p.55)

The roots of this law actually come from Washington State. This state was the first state to actually pass a no-nonsense three strikes policy. The first movement toward this began in the summer of 1991 as research project for the Washington Institute for Policy Studies. The main goals for the project were to examine and review the current practices of sentencing career criminals, and to make recommendations as needed. The researchers wanted anyone who as convicted of a third serious felony to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. They wanted there to be no sympathy whatsoever for the criminals. This law was not enforced there until December 1993. (Lacourse, p.1)

In California, the most notable reasons for this law were promoted by Fresno resident, Mike Reynolds. In 1992, his daughter was attacked and murdered by two men whom were parolees. The gunman was killed in a shoot-out with police, while the other offender only received a nine year prison sentence. This outraged many, including Mr. Reynolds. He then approached two democratic assemblymen, then they drafted the first three strikes bill, which was defeated. Mr. Reynolds kept campaigning to help pass this bill. He soon got most of his backing from another case, the Polly Klaas case. In this incident a twelve-year old girl was abducted from her bedroom in San Francisco and murdered by Richard Allen Davis. Davis had a lengthy criminal history, and had been released from prison bore he committed this heinous crime. This very case became the public's main tool in wanting to put an end to "career criminals." So, in 1994 the bill was finally passed. This very bill caused the other states ton jump on board. (Auerhahn, p.55)

Most of the research and current applications are out of California. Currently, this law states that a person convicted of three felonies is given a mandatory sentence of 25years-life in prison. A felony is normally defined as a crime punishable by a year or more in prison. (Balanced Politics.Org, p.1) If the person has one previous "violent" or "serious" felony conviction, they will be sentenced to twice the term prescribed by law for each of the new felonies, and must serve 80% of their sentence. Finally if there are two violent or serious felony convictions, there is a life-sentence without parole. (, p.1)

California's three strikes laws are the harshest, most ambitious and most frequently mentioned of any of the other states. They want the maximum possible impact on criminal punishments. The have one of the largest criminal justice systems in the free world. They want tom end habitual crime. (Zimring, pgs.3-5)

Other elements of the Three Strikes law are that it does not allow plea bargaining, and there is no granting of probation by the court. Next, in a juvenile adjudication of 16 and 17 year olds who are found fit for juvenile court must be counted as a prior felony conviction. Only prison can be utilized in these cases, no other facilities are allowed. Finally, this law can only be amended by a 2/ 3 vote of legislature.

States that contain three strikes laws or laws similar are as follows (in order of implication): Washington, California, Minnesota, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, New jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, New York, and Iowa. (States with 3 strikes laws, p.1)

Homicide rates were up at their highest in the Unites States and California prior to 1994. Around 1994, after the enactment of this law California and the United States showed a major decline in homicide. (Zimring, p.153)

The similar forms of the three strikes legislation were mainly passed between the periods of 1993 and 1996 in the other 25 states. The main themes of these legislation were to display the public fear and anger over the crime, the lenient treatment of the criminal offenders, and the need for victim's rights. These were the main factors in theses truth sentencing laws. (Zimring, p.159)

Many feel the Three strikes laws are necessary in today's criminal justice system. Some supporting arguments for this law state that it provides a fix for a flawed justice system. Secondly it is said that this law looks like a very good deterrent after the second conviction. Next, the media tends to mostly show trivial cases pertaining to the Three strikes law, instead o showing the usual perpetrators, for example murderers and robbers. Finally, the law pertains to three convictions, not three crimes. This means the criminal could get away with other non-reported incidents. (Balanced Politics.Org, p.1) The main target is repeat offenders.

The feelings of most that support this law think that if a criminal does not reform after two felony convictions, it is highly unlikely they ever will reform. This law keeps these habitual offenders off the streets, since they are not capable of controlling their deviant behavior. (Murphy, p.1) Then very threat of long sentences also deters crime.

When the Three Strikes law is fully implemented it should reduce felonies committed by adults between 22 and 32%. Police and court costs may be saved due to the fact that they will not have to deal with such offenders often, because they will be locked up. (, p.1)

A recent case that pertains to the positive attributes of this law comes out of Allentown Pennsylvania, April 9, 2005. Michael Leon Haley, Sr. will serve a mandatory 25 year sentence for committing 3 serious felonies. He committed 2 bank robberies, one in 1982, and one in 1987. Originally he got a -5 year sentence and a 2-5 year sentence. His third strike happened when he stabbed a woman in April 2004. He slashed her throat in a motel. In March a jury convicted Haley, 48 of attempted homicide, aggregated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and terroristic threats. He even got a theft conviction for stealing a woman's car after the incident. (Morning Call, pg. 1-2)

As of 2004 Ventura County



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