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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Proposition 36 Three Strikes Law Reform Passes

Michael Juliani |
November 6, 2012 | 10:49 p.m. PST

Assistant News Editor

Proposition 36 (Dawn Megli / Neon Tommy)
Proposition 36 (Dawn Megli / Neon Tommy)

With more than a quarter of votes in, Proposition 36 leads with 68 percent of the vote.

Prop. 36 pledges to reform the California Three Strikes law.

Since 1994, when the law was voted in with a rash of support by California voters in the wake of the murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, repeat offenders have been treated harshly.

Under the Three Strikes law, if a person has one previous series or violent felony conviction, then the sentence for any new felony conviction is doubled, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

For people with two previous violent or serious felony convictions, a third conviction for any new felony (not only serious or violent) results in life imprisonment, with a minimum of 25 years that must be served. 

In 2004, Arnold Schwarzenegger was able to launch a last-minute attack ad campaign against Prop. 66, which also wanted to alter the Three Strikes law.

According to Dan Newman, one of the strategists for the Prop. 36 campaign, several key differences set Prop. 36 apart from Prop. 66.  

Prop. 36 promised that it would not benefit any criminal who has ever been convicted of a violent crime, such as murder, rape or child molestation. Its pitch said that it won't automatically re-sentence prisoners who have not been convicted of violent crime. A judge will have to decide whether a shorter sentence will pose a threat to public safety.

The Prop. also agreed not to redefine the definition of serious or violent crime or change the Three Strikes law's effect on people aquiring a second strike.

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

Prop. 36 had 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 Califronia's Voter Guide, Prop. 36 could have the potential to save California taxpayers more than $100 million a year.

According to the Prop. 36 website, it wanted to "restore the original intent and core purpose of the Three Strikes law: to keep dangerous and violent criminals behind bars."  

Stanford Law Professor David Mills, a longtime social activist, was one of the top donors to the Proposition, giving close to a million dollars of private funds.

Major opponents of the proposition included the California Republican Party; Keith Royal, the president of the California State Sheriff's Association; and Mike Reynolds, who wrote the language for the original Three Strikes law.

Reynolds said, "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."



Proposition 36 Poised For Victory After Early Returns

Proposition 36 Could Fix Several California Problems

Prop 36 Wants To Reform The "Three Strikes" Law


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage of the California Propositions here.

Reach Assistant News Editor Michael Juliani here.



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