Three Strikes Law and Crime Sentencing Regulation Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


Californian lawmakers and citizens, in the year 1994, ratified a key amendment in the crime sentencing regulation of the nation (touted as ‘Three Strikes and You’re Out’ or the ‘Three Strikes Law’). Implemented by the state legislature under Chapter 12 of the 1994 Statutes (AB 971, Jones) and by California’s electorate under Proposition 184, one of the main elements of this regulation is that it mandates at least twenty-five years of life imprisonment in case of individuals convicted thrice for several past aggressive or major felonies (Brown and Jolivette; Diamond). This rule was enacted following concerns raised after the perpetration of a number of high profile homicides by ex-convicts. Society began to widely believe that violent criminals who acquired release from jail went on to perpetrate novel, and usually more brutal and major, offences. In this paper, the regulation’s effect will be explored and how far it has successfully accomplished its goals will be assessed. A literature review, existing information on hand, and talks with prominent local and state level crime justice authorities will be used as the basis to conduct this analysis. An attempt will be made at ascertaining whether or not the law facilitates crime reduction or whether it simply increases prison inmates’ population?

Rationale and key features of the law

Released individuals who reenter the world of crime are possibly hardest to handle by local and state crime justice authorities. Imprisonment has no impact on their behavior and the idea of facing another sentence doesn’t appear to bother them. Consequently, lawmakers as well as citizens support lengthier sentences for such criminals (The New York Times; Diamond). Proposition 184 advocates assert that the imposition of lengthier sentences for repeat criminals would have twofold benefits: Firstly, lengthier sentences (or sentence enhancements) imply communities are safe from their malevolence for longer durations. Further, being threatened with a lengthier sentence would dissuade a few criminals from further perpetrating offences.

Besides increasing incarceration durations for particular types of repeat criminals, California’s famed Three Strikes regulation brought in other amendments as well. Most notably, an individual found guilty of perpetrating a crime, with a history of being found guilty of brutal or major offences, will be meted out a lengthier sentence.

Impact of the law

Impact on the Prison Population

From the time of its enactment, the regulation has immensely influenced the incarcerated population’s composition. Californian courts have incarcerated more than 7,500 third-time offenders and more than 80,000 second-time offenders in the state’s prison. (Over 50% of the latter have even completed their sentence and are now back in society.) A decade after the law’s enactment, nearly 43,000 prisoners (roughly 26% of the overall jail population) were serving their sentences according to the 1994 Three Strikes rule (Brown and Jolivette). Third-time offenders constitute roughly 7,500 of these inmates while second-time convicts account for over 35,000. Statistical figures reveal an increase in third and second striker prisoners across the decade 1994-2004. Initially, striker prisoners’ population increased swiftly. But over time, a significant decline has been witnessed, with several second strikers out on parole after having served their stipulated time.

According to analysts’ forecasts at the time the law was implemented, by the end of a decade, more than 100,000 prisoners would be added to state prisons. This growth rate has evidently not been witnessed, owing to several potential factors such as district attorneys’ and judges’ discretion to reject certain past strikes (Sutton, 2-3). Although there is no court record of the frequency of application of this discretion, California State University’s Jennifer Walsh surveyed district attorneys and discovered that past strikes could be disregarded in case of as many as 25-45% of third-time convicts, leading to shorter incarceration durations (Taibbi, 2; Brown and Jolivette).

Three Strikes advocates justify their stand by claiming that the rule would have twofold benefits for the state: 1) Incapacitation effect: Repeat criminals would be isolated from society for lengthier durations, preventing them from perpetrating novel offences in that time; and 2) Deterrent effect: Severe punishments under the rule would serve to dissuade certain potential criminals, thus reducing crime rates (The New York Times).

According to the California Crime Index of the Justice Department, California State’s crime rate, on the whole, started dropping prior to the rule’s enactment in 1994. Indeed, from 1991 to 1994, a ten percent fall, on the whole, was witnessed in crime rates (Brown and Jolivette). Following the law’s enactment, the state’s crime rate witnessed…

Sources Used in Document:

Works cited

Brown, Brian, and Greg Jolivette. A primer: Three strikes: The impact after more than a decade. Legislative Analyst\'s Office, 2005. Web.

Miller, Bettye. “Evidence Does Not Support Three-strikes Law as Crime Deterrent.” UCR Today. (2012). Web.

Sutton, John R. \"Symbol and substance: Effects of California\'s Three Strikes law on felony sentencing.\" Law & Society Review 47.1 (2013): 37-72. Print.

Taibbi, Matt. \"Cruel and unusual punishment: The shame of three strikes laws.\" Rolling Stone 27 (2013). Web.

The New York Times. “3 Strikes and You\'re Out: After 20 Years, Is the Law Working? | Retro Report | The New York Times.” Youtube. (2013). Web.

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