The Three Strikes Law Needs Reform
At one time, the term “three strikes and you are out” only meant that a player had struck out and needed to take a seat in the dugout for the rest of the inning but ever since the implementation of California’s 1994 get tough on crime measures, commonly referred to as the three strikes law, it has also come to mean that a person had been struck out and needed to take a seat in prison for the rest of their life. The legislature and voters passed the three strikes law after several high profile murders committed by ex-felons raised concern that violent offenders were being released from prison only to commit new, often serious and violent, crimes in the community. But the public perception at the time was that the new law was only going to target the most violent and hardcore criminal element. Unfortunately, that is not what has happened. In many cases the law has been equitable when imposed on felons who have continually committed violent acts, but it has also been used unfairly to throw away the key on many who otherwise might have been able to be rehabilitated. And with the passage of time since it became law we can now clearly see how it is affecting some people in unforeseen negative ways and therefore is in need of serious reform.
The most controversial part of this law is that the third offense can be any offense, even a petty crime such as a misdemeanor. Those drafting three strikes legislation and the voting public should remember the purpose of the concept behind the law was to keep repeat violent criminals out of circulation and was intended to apply to those committing three violent offenses only, and not to just any three felonies. According to state law (Penal Code 667.5) felonies defined as violent include murder, robbery, and rape and other sex offenses. And according to state law
(Penal Code 1192.7) felonies defined as serious include the same offenses as violent felonies, but
also includes other...