The three strikes law is the nickname given to the law that governs how people that have had 2 prior felonies and are charged with a third are treated in court. The law was originally written to keep violent felons from continuing to get back out of prison and do more acts of violence.
This law limits the ability of the judge in sentencing. Basically if you get three strikes you are supposed to be sentenced to life in prison. This law is supposed to be reserved for the most violent felonies like rape, murder and child molestation.
The law was enacted in 1994 starting in California in response to an awful kidnapping crime by a man that had been convicted of felonies prior. The citizens of the state were so outraged by the heinous crime that when the Three Strikes law came up for vote it passed by a huge margin. It was not too soon after that the federal government adopted a similar law and 24 other states also adopted similar sentencing laws.
Pros of Three Strikes Law
Keeping violent criminals off the street is a pro. Having a law in place that puts people away forever if they commit a violent crime more than twice can help to protect people.
1. The Repeat Offender
The repeat offender when it comes to violent felonies is actually the norm. Unfortunately the “success” story is far and few in between when it comes to someone that commits a violent felony. The mandatory sentencing can keep people off the streets that can not be rehabilitated as proven by their willingness to commit violent crimes over and over.
2. The Victim’s Rights
A lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about a prisoners rights and they think about how unfair this law can be but what about the victims rights? The Three Strike Law came about because a child was victimized by someone that had a history of felonies, had that man been in jail that child would not have lost her life. The victims have a right to live in peace knowing that their assailant can not get out of prison to harm someone else.
Cons of Three Strikes Law
The Three Strikes Law is not without fault and unfortunately human fault is tremendous. The law was meant to punish violent felons but it is has been largely overused. There are horror stories about people doing life in prison for stealing a pair of socks, or for stealing pizza. As a matter of fact the law has changed dramatically in California and other states because there were literally thousands of cases where the law had been misused.
1. Misinterpretation of the Law
The law was meant to prevent VIOLENT felons from getting back on the street to harm people. It was never meant to put people in prison for 25 years to life for stealing or for having drugs in their possession. The law has been misinterpreted roughly 3,000 times since its inception. There are cases outside of California that also point to the fact that these laws do not even make sense to the judges that are imposing the sentences.
The laws are not very specific they are actually quite general. There are questions that need to be addressed as to what constitutes a “third strike” because the law has been misused. Ff the third strike is meant to be exclusively applied for violent only felonies the laws need to spell that out.
2. The Cost
It costs about $45000 a year to keep someone in prison. It can get expensive when a law is misused and we start putting people behind bars for life that are not really a threat to society.
California’s Three Strike Law is Powerful
The law has people on both sides of the fence very passionate about it. There has been quite a few problems especially in California with the law being overused. At one point the prisons in California were so overcrowded that the Supreme Court ordered that 30,000 non violent criminals be released because the housing situation was so overcrowded that it became “cruel and unusual” punishment.
There are pros and cons to every law but the Three Strikes Law has the ability to evoke real passion in people that are either for the law or against it. Both sides have some valid points to make.
The Three Strikes Law may have started out as a good idea. It may have had the right intentions behind it but it is a law that needs temperance. No law should ever trump good common sense. Clearly no one should spend their life in prison (at taxpayers expense) for shop lifting a pair of socks nor should anyone that can not refrain from repeated violence be allowed to live in society.