Two million people in prison in America is unacceptable – and I agree. It is important to separate California’s 3-Strike law and California’s prison population from the nation as a whole. This article would have you believe that 3-Strikes is directly responsible for the prison growth of the whole nation.
It is not.
California’s 3-Strikes has been law for over 9 years and yet California has not built even one new prison in that time. As to prison population, California has maintained a nearly level number of some 160,000 inmates for the last 4 years. In contrast to the 10 years prior to 3-Strikes, California built 19 new prisons and saw a 400% rate of in mate population growth.
Ms. Gearan is right that California’s 3-Strikes is a very dangerous law. Not to law abiding citizens but to criminals with prior serious and violent offenses.
Most of all it’s most dangerous to a long held liberal belief that by weakening our laws, fewer offenders will be incarcerated.
3-Strikes is a tough law and criminals know it. For every tough guy that goes down on a third strike, many more go straight or move to a state without a 3-Strike law.
The end result is less crime. California reduced its rates at twice the national average and at a greater rate than 49 other states in just 5 years.
Repeat offenders by definition are in and out of prison – they are already doing life on the installment plan, 3-Strikes just cuts out the middleman – the next victim.
I also agree, “One sentence does not fit all.” That is why 3-Strikes allows either the presiding judge or prosecutor to reduce a strike if so indicated for the furtherance of justice.
Time has a way of causing us to forget exactly what happened back in 1994 when 3-Strikes became law.
The legislative version of 3-Strikes became law March 7th and I was there when Governor Wilson signed the bill and he handed me the pen with which it was signed.
After the signing ceremony, I then asked the press corps to walk about 30 feet away. I then announced to the press that we had gathered over 800,000 signatures and we were placing 3-Strikes on the November ballot.
During that 8-month period, March through November, there were no ads for 3-Strikes but there were front page headlines that appeared in every major newspaper about someone who stole a slice of pizza, a lawnmower or some other low level third strike.
These articles were short on the facts of an offender’s prior conviction and long on the fact that he was getting 25 years to life.
Ms. Gearan was naïve or disingenuous when she said she did not know what she was voting for.
As to savings of tax money:
The first call of tax money must be public safety. What does it matter what it is spent on education when a child has a greater concern about getting home alive than getting home to do his or her schoolwork?
Anyone who thinks releasing repeat offenders is saving money is wrong. They are, by definition, “repeat offenders,” people who will be back with new convictions. The larger amount of crime they do during the small amount of time they are not incarcerated is the issue. New crimes and victims, new arrests, arraignments and prosecution outweigh any possible savings, related to incarceration costs.
California has the highest recidivism rate in the nation with 71% re-offending every 18 months, this twice the national average.
The only thing 3-Strikes is doing is removing offenders with prior serious and violent prior convictions. The average low-level offender has found California easy pickings.
AB112 would release approximately 3,000 strikers – all with prior serious and or violent convictions. All who had their cases reviewed by a prosecutor and a judge and deemed them the kind of offender that 3-Strikes was intended to keep off the streets.