Three Strikes You
’re Out Law Essay, Research Paper
We have all heard of the newest anti-crime
law, the “Three strikes and you?re out” law. It wasn?t easy getting this
law from the bill stage in Sacramento to the law stage, because it is not
a criminal friendly law. Meaning that this law?s purpose is to bring pain,
suffering, and intimidation to criminals. Our state government was basically
ran by the Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, now mayor of San Francisco. Brown
had the power to choose who sat on what committee in the house, and using
this he could terminate any bill he did not agree with. And with this attitude
it took a lot of patients and perseverance by the people trying to pass
this bill. But how did the bill become a bill? I will answer this question
with help of the Kimber Reynolds story.
Monday, June 29, 1992 in Fresno, California
a young woman was brutally murdered outside The Daily Planet, a restaurant
patronized by the local young people. The girl was visiting home for the
summer after being in the Los Angeles area attending school. Her and a
friend were getting into their car when two guys on a motorcycle rode up
next to Kimber Reynolds blocking her in, taking her purse, and beating
her into submission. The story made the 11 o?clock news only minutes after
her father had gone to bed. When police ran a background check on the two
suspected men, Joeseph Micheal Davis and Douglas Walker, both men had recently
been released on parole with multiple offenses on their records. Unfortunately
Davis was never brought in because when police were attempting to arrest
him he began firing, wounding unsuspecting police officers and ultimately
being killed. Douglas Walker was convicted of accessory to murder.
Mike Reynolds, Kimber?s father, went on
the radio on a local radio show called the Ray Appleton Show, KMJ 580.
There he would discuss his outrage about how he was sick of repeat offenders
being locked up only to be released after a fraction of the sentence was
completed. He swore to the people listening that he was going to do something
about the problem, even if it takes him forever. Listening to that show
was Fresno Assemblyman Bill Jones (R). He was interested in the issue and
arranged a meeting with Mike. They discussed ideas about how they could
solve this problem.
With that in mind Mike used some connections
and gathered one superior, one appellate, and one municipal court judge,
as well as a well-known local defense attorney, a representative from the
Fresno Police Department, an expert in juvenile justice and Ray Appleton.
The men did some research and drew up some ideas. Their final legislative
proposal was as follows:
Double the sentence for a conviction of
any felony if there is a previous serious or violent felony conviction.
Triple the sentence or twenty-five years
to life, whichever is greater, for any combination of two prior violent
or serious felony convictions coupled with any new felony.
Probation, a suspended sentence, or a commitment
to a diversion program as a substitute for serving time in prison is prohibited
for felons with at least one prior conviction of a serious or violent felony.
Any felon with at least one prior serious
or violent felony conviction must serve any subsequent felony sentence
in a state prison (as opposed to a county jail).
Terms are to be served consecutively, rather
Maximum allowable time off for good behavior
is reduced to 20 percent.
Juvenile convictions for serious of violent
felonies count as prior convictions if the felony was committed when the
juvenile was sixteen or seventeen years old.
When a defendant has at least one prior
conviction for a serious or violent felony, the district attorney is required
to plead and prove all known prior felony convictions. Prior felony convictions
cannot be used as part of a plea-bargain.
Now that Mike had the proposal he had Bill
Jones submit it to the state legislature. Right away the bill was sent
to the Assembly Public Safety committee to be approved. This committee
is known as a killer of tough-on-crime bills, and consisted of eight members,
Paula Boland, Richard Rainey, Tom Umberg, Tom Bates, John Burton, Barbara
Lee, and committee chairman Robert Epple. Both Boland and Rainey were Republicans
while the rest were Democrats, and one vacant seat due to unknown reasons.
This committee was moderate or even moderately conservative, but because
Willie Brown had the power to choose members of the committee he chose
those people whom he thought would sway the vote towards a liberal direction,
which did not reflect the philosophy of the whole assembly. Mike also had
asked Fresno Assemblyman Jim Costa (D) to be a co-author of their proposal,
Mike wanted a bipartisan approach to the legislature. Meaning he wanted
to have both major parties represented in the proposal.
The men had two Republican and two Democratic
votes in their favor and only needed one more vote to pass, but unfortunately
they did not get that one vote because Brown set up the committee and didn?t
want a tough-on-crime bill. Berkeley Assemblyman John Burton gave Jones
an option to re-write their proposal the way he sees fit, or have the proposal
taken from the floor again and put to another vote. The problem with the
latter was that if it failed again there would never be another next time.
Jones and Mike Reynolds did neither of the two, their mission now was to
take it straight to the people of the state and find out what they think.
The two men did exactly that, paying for
publicity out of their own pockets. Eventually they did get corporate assistance
from organizations like the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the CCPOA
(California Correctional Peace Officers Association), as well as others.
Their efforts would not be fruitless because they knew that if they could
get enough signatures that the proposal would be put on the November, 1994
election ballot. The men had hundreds of thousands of signatures that lead
to the induction of the proposal to the ballot as “Prop 184.” The men made
a few minor changes to the proposal but in the end it basically read as
before. The men knew they had to keep it simple because they knew people
would not vote for something they could not understand.
There is a lot of talk about serious and
violent felonies in the law and there are certain offenses that must be
met in order to qualify as a serious or violent felony. The felonies that
would fall under both categories would be those that are beyond misdemeanors
and/or carry an extensive sentence.
With the passage of “Three strikes” some
argued that it would ignite an increase in violence against law enforcement
officers, putting them in danger as they tried to maintain public safety.
The American Civil Liberties Union argued that criminals facing a life
sentence if they were to be convicted would be far more likely to resist
arrest, assault officers and kill witnesses. Since the enactment of the
law violence against law enforcement officers has not risen but fallen.
In the three years prior to the law assault against law enforcers dropped
14.9% while since the enactment it has dropped 11.9%, setting a downward
Some studies have argued that the population
of prisons and jails will rise substantially because of the increased prison
sentences, limitations on the ability of repeat offenders to earn credits
to reduce time, and prisoners required to be sentenced to prison rather
than jails. Despite predictions to the contrary, the growth in the prison
population since the enactment has slowed. In the four years prior to the
law the prison population increased by 37%. Since the enactment the prison
population has grown only 32%. That is near the percentage for the nation
at 27% excluding California. While jail populations have increased during
this era, the average number of persons booked over this period has dropped.
The average number of people booked per month in county jails hit a record
low in 1995 with 97,589. This is because 6% of criminals are responsible
for 70% of all crime.
During the debate over the “Three Strikes
law, opponents argued that the prison system would become overfilled with
non-violent offenders serving life terms. Trying to prove this true a study
conducted by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in 1996 concluded
that 85% of the people sentenced under the “Three Strikes” law received
their third strike for a non-violent crime. It reported that 192 individuals
were convicted of marijuana possession while only 40 were convicted of
murder, 25 of rape, and 24 of kidnapping. At the end of 1997, California?s
inmate population totaled 152,577. 23.2% of the inmates (35,411), were
imprisoned for second- and third-strike convictions.
There were repeated warnings about the
cost to implement the new law, but few have addressed the other side of
the equation and the savings to the state, in lives and in dollars. Had
our 1993 crime rate continued unaffected over these past few years, nearly
815,000 additional crimes would have been committed in California, including
217,000+ violent crimes. We would have suffered more than 4,000 homicide
victims; 6000+ women would have been victims of rape. Also the savings
in dollars is between $5.8 billion and $15.5 billion since the enactment
of the “Three Strikes” law.
There has been swift and dramatic impact
on crime since the enactment of the “Three Strikes” law. The crime rate
has dropped more than 30%. But there are other factors that play a part
in this reduction like crime prevention, and community policing. However
there has been a significant drop in the crime rate. Also the predictions
about cost, over populating and others have not come true. With all of
the opposition out there trying to tear this law down I believe that California
can not afford to do without this law because it is saving our state money