Diversity Issues in the Criminal Justice System
Phase 4 Individual Project
Colorado Technical University
December 12, 2014
In the United States in certain states such as California there is the “Three Strikes Law.”
The three strikes law was passed as a “get tough” response on crime, and its goal was to serve as a deterrent and to reduce violent crime by incarcerating repeat offenders for the rest of their lives. Repeat offenders are thought to be responsible for a majority of crimes. The most thorough study of recidivism, done in 1986 by the National Research Council, produced the estimate that active violent offenders” probably commit two to four violent crimes a year, while “active nonviolent offenders” were responsible for five to 10 property crimes a year. In this paper, the beginnings of the law with a description of the policy will be given in the introduction, and the following questions will be studied:
· Are the three strikes laws contributing to prison overcrowding?
· Are these laws targeting non-violent offenders?
· Do these laws serve as a deterrent? It was hoped that California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law would deter the habitual, violent criminals from committing further crimes by mandating harsher penalties including a 25-year-to-life prison sentence for some offenders. Signed into law in March 1994 in the wake of public fury over the case of Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old who was abducted from her home and killed in 1993 by a career criminal, the law was designed to target criminals with one or two serious or violent felony convictions on their records. These crimes, a particular list of offenses that count as “strikes,” include residential burglary, murder, attempted murder, rape, robbery and arson. An offender who already had one strike on his or her record would face double the minimum prison term once convicted of any new felony - not just those defined as strikes. In addition, the offender would have to complete 85 percent of the sentence before release from prison. An offender with two existing strikes on his or her record would be sentenced to 25-years-to-life when convicted of any third felony — this third felony could be any felony offense including theft. Since this law was put into effect in California originally it has been updated and changed twice. The first time that it was updated was when the first Proposition passed, then again here in 2014. The updating done in 2014 has released many people who were incarcerated for such felonies as drugs, burglary, and assault were being released because their felonies are now considered misdemeanors.
Some politicians have hailed the three-strikes laws as the ultimate get-tough-on-crime policy while other criticize it, saying that the laws have shown no measurable effect on the reduction of crime. The state of Washington was the first to adopt a three-strike policy in 1993,
California in 1994, and since then, 22 other states have followed suit. (anonymous, 1995) Other states considering similar legislation may want to consider the information discussed here.
(unknown, 2010) In 1996, state and federal courts, for the first time, convicted a combined total of more than 1 million adults of felonies. The fastest growing group in California’s prisons is those who have received severe sentences under the three-strike law. At last count, nearly 50,000 criminals have received severe sentences under the statute. Some have said that the increase in prison population is due to an increase in the general population, but Pontell and his associates showed that there is little correlation between the rising general population and the extent of crime. For example, Pontell showed that, in one California County, the general population increased by about 80 percent, but the jail population went from 10.2 to 12.8 per 10,000 people.
In another county, the general population grew by about 20 percent while the