November’s ballot will feature the Three Strikes Reform Act which is a revised version of California’s Three Strikes Law. Proposition 36 would condense prison sentences for third strike offenders depending on the nature of the crime while giving felons with a single conviction of murder, rape, or child molestation a harsher punishment even if the third strike is a minor offense.
If Prop 36 passes, California could see a reduction in the number of inmates in its prisons as well as saving the state anywhere between 70 to 90 million dollars per year. Opponents of Prop 36 say it would allow thousands of potentially dangerous felons to be released early from their sentences.
Statistics show 65 percent of prisoners released go back to correctional facilities within three years while half of that number return to prison within six months. Those against Prop 36 also point to the concept of judicial discretion claiming judges already have some leeway in how they administer the law.
The final argument against the initiative is it will not reduce taxes and that government doesn’t spend enough on crime as it is.
Official Title: Three Strikes Law Initiative
Revise the three strikes law to impose life sentence only when the new felony conviction is "serious or violent". Authorize re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if their third strike conviction was not serious or violent and if the judge determines that the re-sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety. Continue to impose a life sentence penalty if the third strike conviction was for "certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession". Maintain the life sentence penalty for felons with "non-serious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation."
With the California prison population hovering at around 180,000 inmates, could Prop 36 help or hurt our penal system? Are there any other options when it comes to our correctional facilities? Will you vote for it or against it?
Jeffrey Robinson, lawyer, NAACP legal defense fund
Mike Reynolds, helped write the language for California’s “Three Strikes Law”; following the murder of daughter Kimber in 1992