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3 Strikes Law in California: How Politics Impacted the Enforcement of Cruel Justice

published March 19, 2023

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( 39 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
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Cruel Justice: Three Strikes and the Politics of Crime in America's Golden State

The Three Strikes law in California has been one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in the United States. This law has had a major impact on the criminal justice system in California and the country as a whole.

Under the law, any person who commits a third strike offense will be sentenced to life in prison. The law was enacted in 1994, in the midst of a nationwide crime wave, and it was seen as a way to deter crime and decrease crime rates. Initially, the law was popular, but it soon became controversial due to the harshness of the sentences and the unequal application of the law across different racial and socio-economic groups.

The Three Strikes law has had significant implications for the criminal justice system in California. It has led to a drastic increase in prison populations and has had a major impact on the resources available to the system. Additionally, the law has been criticized for disproportionately impacting minorities and low-income individuals, as well as people who commit minor crimes.

In recent years, there have been several attempts to reform the Three Strikes law in California. Proponents of reform argue that the law has been over-applied and has led to excessive sentencing and overcrowded prisons. Opponents of reform argue that such changes would lead to a decrease in public safety and an increase in crime rates.

Ultimately, the Three Strikes law and the politics of crime in America's Golden State have had far-reaching consequences for the criminal justice system and for the state as a whole. This law has been criticized for unfairly targeting certain demographic groups and for its harsh sentences. At the same time, it has provided a powerful deterrent to crime and has been credited with decreasing crime rates. As California continues to grapple with the implications of the Three Strikes law, it will be important to consider both its successes and its failures.

The “Three Strikes” law in California has been a controversial and highly debated issue since its enactment in 1994. This law provides for life sentences for third-strike offenses such as murder, rape, and drug possession. Initially, it was seen as an effective deterrent to crime but has since come under fire for its disproportionate application across racial and socio-economic groups. In recent years, there have been attempts to reform the Three Strikes law, which has had a major impact on the state's criminal justice system and public safety. It is clear that the Three Strikes law has had both positive and negative effects on the state of California and will have to be closely monitored in the future.

California's Three Strikes Law

In 1994, Californians voted to pass one of the most tough-on-crime laws in the United States: the Three Strikes and You're Out law. Designed to deter crime and punish dangerous and repeat offenders, the law requires a sentence of 25 years to life in prison if someone is convicted of a third felony. The law is so stringent that even the smallest manslaughter, theft, and drug possession offenses can trigger a third strike conviction. Since being enacted, California's Three Strikes Law has been widely cited as one of the state's most successful crime prevention measures.

Making Sense of California's Three Strikes Law

In this article, we will discuss the rationale behind the Three Strikes Law and its effects on California's criminal justice system. We will explore the debate surrounding the law, and we will compare California's Three Strikes Law to other state and federal sentencing statutes. We will also discuss recent attempts to modify the law and what changes have already been made.

History and Intent of California's Three Strikes Law

California's Three Strikes Law was first proposed in 1994 by then Governor Pete Wilson and passed with overwhelming popular support. The law was intended to reduce recidivism by guaranteeing longer sentences for repeat offenders, along with a mandatory 25 years to life sentence if someone was convicted of a third felony. Supporters of the law argued that by removing the incentive for repeat offenders to commit crimes, the Three Strikes Law could drastically reduce the crime rate in California.

Criticism of California's Three Strikes Law

The Three Strikes Law has been a source of great contention since its passage. Critics of the law argue that it is too inflexible, resulting in the unjust punishment of minor offenders and the overcrowding of California's prison system. They cite examples of people who were imprisoned for life for menial crimes such as stealing a slice of pizza or possessing a small amount of drugs. Additionally, the law has been criticized for disproportionately targeting people of color.

Reform Efforts

In 2012, voters passed Proposition 36, which amended the Three Strikes Law. Under the new law, offenders can only receive a life sentence if their third strike is a “serious or violent felony”. Additionally, offenders already serving life sentences under the Three Strikes Law can petition for a resentencing if their third strike was for a nonviolent or non-serious crime. Since then, the number of inmates in California prisons has decreased by thousands.

<<Cruel Justice tells the compelling story of the law, which began as the brainchild of a father whose daughter was brutally murdered in front of a neighborhood restaurant. In 1992, Kimber Reynolds was just 18 when she was shot in the head by a man who was attempting to steal her purse.

From that moment forward, Mike Reynolds vowed to avenge his daughter's death. His plan was to change California law, making any criminal with two prior felony convictions eligible for the maximum 25-years-to-life sentence upon commission of a third felony or "strike."

Support for this legislation increased dramatically when a second brutal murder occurred in 1993. This was the case of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was abducted one night from her own bedroom. She was strangled to death by her kidnapper, and her body was later found hidden inside an abandoned warehouse.

The Klaas case was just the fuel that Mike Reynolds needed to fan the fire of enthusiasm for his three-strikes bill. Marc Klaas initially supported three strikes, but ultimately, Polly Klaas' father came to realize that because of its far reaching nature, three strikes could actually cause more harm than good as far as justice was concerned.

Cruel Justice explains in great detail how the three-strikes law, born in a climate of extreme fear, brought on in part by these two horrific murders, seemed like the answer to California's alarmingly high crime rate. Support for the bill was achieved largely by playing upon those fears and by exploiting the murder of Polly Klaas.

In Cruel Justice, Domanick demonstrates that justice has not been served by the three-strikes law, because, ultimately, many criminals were given 25-years-to-life sentences for crimes as insignificant as petty theft with a prior and simple drug possession. In fact, almost 50% of the prisoners serving under the three-strikes law had committed third strikes that were non-serious and nonviolent.

The book paints a very grim picture of the current system of justice in California. By uncovering the truth behind the state's three-strikes law, Cruel Justice provides the reader with a clear understanding that to a great extent, under the three-strikes law California courts can no longer profess to be administering justice per se.

Cruel Justice provides a comprehensive and revealing analysis of the many factors involved in the creation and implementation of the three-strikes law. By far the most interesting part of the story, however, is the real human drama behind three strikes, particularly the personal agenda of the law's greatest proponent, Mike Reynolds.

In contrast to the stories of the victims' families, Domanick also profiles the lives of some of the people who have been affected the most by three strikes—the criminals and their families. He also touches upon the struggles of three-strikes reform advocates, who have thus far attempted unsuccessfully to change any part of the three-strikes law.

Cruel Justice is a fascinating read not only for those who have an interest in the criminal justice system, but also for anyone who simply follows the news, which so often focuses on the kind of heinous crimes that led to the passage of three strikes. The book is certainly eye opening as well as thought provoking, leaving the reader with a desire to learn more about the future of California's three-strikes law.

published March 19, 2023

( 39 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.