NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Californians Taking Another Look At Three-Strikes Law

February 22, 2000

Despite the role it has played in holding down crime rates, some California activists are promoting modification of that state's "three strikes" crime law. The law doubles minimum prison terms for second felons and requires 25 years to life for third time offenders.

Critics are campaigning either to exempt nonviolent offenses from the law or make the third-strike penalties for them less punitive. But lawmakers there are reportedly reluctant to tinker with the procedures.

  • Almost six years ago, California became the first state to put a three-strikes law in place.
  • Shortly thereafter, more than two dozen other states adopted similar approaches.
  • However, California's law has sent far more criminals back to prison than similar measures in other states because it make far more felonies subject to its tough prison terms.
  • Prosecutors in Los Angeles report that it is not unusual for felons to tell them that they are moving out of state because they fear getting a second or third strike for a nonviolent offense.

Prosecutors insist they are careful to use discretion when deciding whether to invoke a third-strike prison sentence -- especially for nonviolent crimes. Although they do not account for a majority of the sentences, violent offenses are a common reason for receiving a third strike, state records show.

Source: Rene Sanchez, "A Movement Builds Against 'Three Strikes' Law," Washington Post, February 18, 2000.


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