This month we saw the introduction of a legislative bill and a state initiative to change California’s 3-Strikes law. It is puzzling why anyone would want to change a law that has been so graphically effective in stopping crime. Still, there remains a determined few that have and will continue to do everything in their power to undo the very tool that has improved the quality of life for us all.
After 9-11, our political leaders spoke of our government’s primary directive “to protect our citizens from all enemies, both foreign and domestic,” and to do everything possible to create an atmosphere that was conducive for children to learn, for families to live and for business to grow.
This must first and foremost be an atmosphere free from fear.
When there is fear on our streets – children can’t learn, families won’t stay, and stores won’t remain open when they are being robbed every night.
Those who oppose 3-Strikes ask not that it be abolished but ask only for a few changes to make it more “fair.”
“Let’s make all three of the strikes violent as do other states and the federal government,” they say.
Well, nearly 8 years have passed since 3-Strikes was enacted, so let’s look at other states and their 3-Strikes laws and compare them to California’s law. While it’s clear to almost everyone that a person with three violent prior convictions should be locked up, how many actually have been incarcerated in other states under their various laws? The answer is…only a hand full. Also noteworthy is that those states have not seen any greater drop in crime than states without 3-strikes laws. There is a simple explanation.
When we drafted 3-Strikes, our first idea was to make violent felonies necessary on all 3-Strikes. But in our research, we found California had passed such a law in 1982 and called it the habitual felon law. The question was, “why was it not working?” The California Department of Justice did a search on its use and found that only 41 criminals had been incarcerated in 10 years under the habitual felon law. That is only 4.1 criminals per year in a state with 33 million people…not what one would call taking a bite out of crime. We were torn between making a law that was “politically correct” and one that would actually make our streets safer. We knew that if we made all 3-Strikes violent, with no other mandatory conditions, we wouldn’t have any greater affect on the crime rate than did the 1982 habitual felon law.
Of course, if nobody was being locked up, then no one would complain and we could have passed 3-Strikes very easily. But this law was never about understanding criminals; it has always been about stopping them
Criminals, their attorneys and their families want to change 3-Strikes. But it is important to remember that these people got to prison under 3-Strikes the old fashioned way, “they earned it.” That is how the 3-Strikes law works. You have to earn those strikes, nobody is going to just give them to you. When we start making laws that criminals, defense attorneys, newspaper editors and bleeding heart politicians approve of…well, that’s how we got in this mess to begin with.
California crime rates have dropped at twice the national average since 3-Strikes was enacted. Note also that California prison populations have dropped since the passage of 3-Strikes.
Ten years before 3-Strikes California added 19 new prisons. Now, nearly 10 after 3-Strikes, California will be closing 5 prisons.
3-Strikes gives criminals 3 clear choices: Leave California, get their lives together and stop doing crime, or go to prison. A testimony to the effectiveness of 3-Strikes is that the most asked question on our website is, “what states don’t have 3-strike laws?”
When we have a law that saves lives and taxpayer money, we have a winner.