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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Prop 36 Wants To Reform The "Three Strikes" Law

Michael Juliani |
September 18, 2012 | 7:11 p.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

(Dawn Megli / Neon Tommy)
(Dawn Megli / Neon Tommy)

If passed, Proposition 36 would restructure the "Three Strikes" law in California, lowering sentences for those convicted of nonviolent, non-serious crimes. 

In 1994, the wide majority of voters supported the Three Strikes law, according to the Voter Guide.

"And it worked!  Almost immediately, our state's crime rate plummeted and has remained low, even during the current recession.  The reason is pretty simple.  The same criminals were committing most of the crime--cycling through our courts and jails--over and over again.  The voters said enough--Three Strikes and You're Out!" the Voter Guide said.

In 2004, members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other supporters tried to reform the Three Strikes Law under Proposition 66, but it was turned down.

Supporters of Prop 66 tried to claim that the decrease in crime rate had started even before the Three Strikes law was put into legislation.

But Prop 66 supporters' main point about the social injustice of the Three Strikes Law echoes in the stump speech that Prop 36 advocates are using in 2012: too many nonviolent offenders spend the rest of their lives in prison, costing the state more money and ruining more lives.

An L.A. Times editorial from 2003 written in support of Prop 66 said that, at the time, "344 people [were] serving life sentences in California's prisons for shoplifting a small amount of merchandise.  More than 650 individuals [were] serving life sentences for possessing small quantities of drugs.  Such sentences make no rational sense and are inhumane."

Prop 36 has the support of Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County District Attorney; Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck; and George Gascon, the San Francisco District Attorney, among many others.

According to the Voter Guide, Prop 36 would save California taxpayers over $100 million every year, and would "restore the original intent and core purpose of the Three Strikes law: to keep dangerous and violent criminals behind bars," according to the prop's website.

Stanford Law Professor David Mills, a longtime social activist, has been one of the primary benefactors to the Prop 36 campaign, donating close to a million dollars of private funds.

Major opponents of the proposition include the California Republican Party; Mike Reynolds, who wrote the language for the original Three Strikes law, saying, "Once someone has been convicted of two serious or violent offenses, I suggest it's pretty clear what they are capable of.  If this passes, we are likely to see property crimes going up all over the state, and in very short order"; and Keith Royal, the president of the California State Sheriff's Association. 

Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the California propositions here and more of our coverage of the 2012 election at our blog Politically Correct.


Click here for full Proposition coverage.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here.  Follow him on Twitter here.



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