California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 36, which amends the state's Three Strikes law to mandate that a third strike, which carries a life sentence, be a serious or violent crime.
Sixty-nine percent voted "yes" on the measure. California's Three Strikes law, once considered the toughest in the country, now looks more like dozens of other similar laws around the country.
California voters have rejected changes to the law, passed 18 years ago, in the past. In 2004, Proposition 66, which would have more drastically changed the law, failed despite polling well in the weeks before the election. Proposition 36, a considerably more modest reform, did not see the kind of coordinated opposition past reform efforts faced.
Nevertheless, district attorneys around the state opposed the change, which gives them less discretion over who should face the state's toughest punishments. But the L.A. and San Francisco D.A.'s, Steve Cooley and George Gascon, notably endorsed Proposition 36, saying the reform would help strengthen the law's legitimacy.
Those currently serving life sentences for third strikes that were not serious or violent crimes will now be able to petition in court for altered sentences. Latest estimates put that number at about 3,000 inmates. Going forward, those who have previously been convicted of one or more serious or violent felonies may be charged with a second strike for a new crime, whether or not it's serious or violent. That means they'll be eligible for double the sentence of those with no criminal histories.