“Three strikes and you’re out” should not apply to every wrong move, especially when it comes to certain crimes. With the passing of the Three Strikes Law in 1994, repeat offenders were dealt longer prison sentences. Under this law “second strikers” were to serve twice as long prison sentences if convicted of a serious or violent felony, and “third-strikers” would in turn serve a lifetime sentence, or no less than a 25-year term when convicted of a third felony. Meant to punish sex offenders, the law’s scope has broadened to incorporate other felonies.
Proposition 66, a voter initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot, would soften the Three Strikes Law and lengthen the third-striker’s sentence only if the crime is serious or violent. Leaving a convict in the prison system longer leads us, the taxpayers, to pay these criminals’ expenses rather than our tax dollars that could go towards other areas, such as education. According to the Legislative Analyst’s office, as of April 2004 there were 163,000 inmates in California prisons leading to operational costs of approximately $5.7 billion for 2004-2005 year. So lets get this straight, we are paying more money to keep those convicted felons in jail even if the crimes they committed for the second or third time would have otherwise granted them a shorter prison term?
Many second and third strikers are serving longer sentences for crimes such as burglary, assault with intent to commit robbery or possession of a controlled substance. Many supporters of Proposition 66, such as Citizens Against Violent Crime, see the law as being interpreted in a way that takes advantage of the law’s power, causing it to border on the line of cruel and unusual punishment. Felons should not get away without punishment, but if they can serve a sentence determined by a judge and learn their lesson then why pay more money to keep them in prison longer than needed? We could use the money we save for education or even prison rehabilitation programs, which in recent years have been cut.
True, they may be more afraid to commit another felony if they know it could earn them a life sentence. But even knowing the consequences if they commit another crime doesn’t necessarily deter them and besides, the punishment should fit the crime. Under Proposition 66, many violent offenders would still be subject to Three Strikes. So why waste our money – and their lives – with prolonged sentences for less serious offenders.
Under Proposition 66, many nonviolent felonies would no longer be subject to Three Strikes, including: attempted burglary, burglary of an unoccupied residence, nonresidential arson resulting in no significant injuries, and unintentional infliction of significant personal injury while committing a felony offense, just to name a few.
The proposed law also calls for each crime to be tried separately. The passage of this law would not mean criminals would take over the streets committing crimes with no consequences. It also does not mean that those already in prison will not serve their time.
Prisoners will still be tried based on their felonies and get what they deserve in the end.
Less wasted money and appropriate, rather than over-zealous punishment – who wouldn’t like to see that?