Reforms Needed for Three Strikes Law Essay

  • Length: 7 pages
  • Sources: 5
  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #81828274

Excerpt from Essay :

Define the Problem

The defined and existing problem is going to vary in scope and definition depending on who is doing the defining. However, there are some clear and obvious problems with the “three strikes” law. The policy itself was meant to address a problem. However, that policy has created a new set of problems. Indeed, there are situations where three-time violent felons are justifiably put away for twenty-five years to life. However, the major problem with the policy are the human and budgetary costs that are created by people being thrown in jail for life for minor offenses (“Ewing v. California”, 2017). There is also the concern that some people are being thrown in jail even though they will soon “age out” of criminal behavior. Indeed, men in their 60’s are not able to crawl through windows, run and jump fences like someone in their 20’s or 30’s (Besemer, Ahmad, Hinshaw & Farrington, 2017). In short, there is an obvious pattern and prevalence whereby people are being incarcerated for non-violent offenses. There is also a pattern of some prosecutors “stacking” charges so as to coerce a defendant into a plea bargain (Gocha, 2016).

It is not unreasonable for someone that presents a risk to the public to be incarcerated after the commit multiple offenses. There are even some non-violent offenses that could be classified in that manner, such as repeat DUI offenders. Indeed, that crime is not violent but the risk to the public is clear and people do not really “age out” of drinking, although therapy is always possible with cooperation (Moore, Harrison, Young & Ochshorn, 2008). However, there are plenty of other situations where the three strikes law is an abuse of power, is a waste of taxpayer dollars and might even be discriminatory towards minorities. Due to the clear weaknesses in the law and due to the common lack of built-in oversight and review, it is important to use the power of the state to refine and focus the law so that only the people that are truly a danger to the public are put away. Further, district attorneys should be subject to oversight in terms of who is ultimately subject to a third strike, whether charges could or should be “stacked” for a given situation and how much input the public should have when it comes to all of the above (Mills & Romano, 2013).

Construct Alternative Solutions to the Problem

As noted before, there are a few problems that exist when it comes to the “three strikes” law. It treats many different crimes and offenses in the exact same manner. This is true despite the type of crime that is committed, the costs involved, the likelihood of recidivism, the danger that exists to the public and what is proportional in terms of the crime versus the punishment. The solutions, as such, should be based on making the law more effective, more efficient, more equitable and more proportional. Even so, the safety and sanctity of the public should be upheld as well. After all, there is a reason that murders, rapists and child molesters are thrown in jail with no apology. At the same time, non-violent crime is itself a plague and people that will not abide by the law, at least at a given time, should probably be confined so as to rehabilitate them, or at least punish them for their repeated misdeeds. Even so, the fact that criminals tend to “age out” of their behaviors and the fact that non-violent crimes should generally never lead to a generation-long sentence is something that must be kept mind (Mills & Romano, 2013).

When it comes to truly violent and heinous offenses, the current pattern is probably fine as it is. The three strikes law can obviously be enforced when it comes to murder, manslaughter, rape, sexual assaults and so forth. This is especially true if all three of the “strikes” a person commits are violent offenses. In many instances, a single “strike” like that can itself lead to a life sentence. Indeed, murder in the first-degree murder often leads to a life sentence. When it comes to non-violent offenses, the treatment shall depend on the reaction and cooperation of the defendant. However, life sentences should generally never be used. When it comes to drug possession charges that are felonies, those offenses should generally never have any consideration for “three strikes”. Even if there are related and ancillary crimes (e.g. theft), a life sentence for drug possession is not something that can be justified. The one caveat to that statement would be people that are dealing or trafficking. It is usually not hard to tell the difference. If someone has a large quantity of drugs and/or the drugs are individually packaged for sales, that is a telltale sign that they are selling it. Absent that sort of thing, rehabilitation should be one of the first things offered. If the person committed property or other non-violent crimes during their drug use, jail might be warranted. However, the user can get treatment while they are in prison. If they refuse to get treatment, they will still serve their sentence. However, that sentence should not be excessive. Further, the punishment should focus on the non-drug crimes that were committed (Mills & Romano, 2013).

Something related to drug offenses that deserves its own mention is that there are many instances where simple drug possession is an offender’s third strike. Indeed, it is commonly a felony to possess a number of street drugs. Marijuana is often treated as a misdemeanor unless the amount is beyond a certain weight. However, possessing any amount of cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamine or crack is often a felony. Beyond that, possessing pills without a prescription is often commonly a felony. Given that there are several classes of prescription drugs that are commonly abused, trafficked and exchanged, this is no small thing. A few examples of such pills would be opiate pills (e.g. Vicodin, OxyContin, etc.), benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax, Klonopin, etc.) and ADHD drugs (e.g. Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall). There is little doubt that people of all races and background are guilty of using or abusing illicit street drugs, prescription drugs or both. However, the people that are commonly ensnared when it comes to criminal offenses relating to this drug are commonly African-Americans and Hispanics (Sutton, 2013). The same human and public budgetary costs that are present with other deficiencies in the law are present in this situation. Beyond that, there is a clear disparity in who is caught up in a life sentence due to the problems with the three strikes law (Donald, 2013). Beyond the above, the means that are used to capture and prosecute people for drug use are sometimes over the top and excessive. It is to the point that many convictions have been nullified on constitutional and other grounds (“Rochin v. California”, 2017).

As noted earlier in this report, public safety should be a factor. Many to most non-violent crimes are more of a nuisance than an issue of safety. However, there are some non-violent offenses where public safety is a real issue. For example, people that are alcohol-addicted (or at least reckless) and that continue to drive drunk despite multiple offenses are a good example. People that break into inhabited houses (knowingly or not) are another good example. If these people refuse to stop committing such crimes and endangering the public, perhaps jail is where they belong. However, the three strikes law is too imprecise. An escalating ladder of sentencing is probably warranted but there should be some customizability and discretion involved. It is important to discuss things like this when it comes to DUI since, for example, a third DUI is itself a felony in a lot of states. Even so, there is a way to regulate these DUI offenders without throwing them in jail for life. For any offender that is willing to wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet (e.g. SCRAM) and/or is willing to have an interlock device on their car, that person can and should remain free. They should also get access to Alcoholics Anonymous and/or other rehabilitation services as is needed to gain and keep their sobriety. However, if they do not abide by the terms of their freedom, they should go to jail. If a person remains clean for three years, they can be removed from all restrictions. This would seem to be a good balance…

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