Friday, February 24, 2012

California's Three Strike Law

California’s Three Strike Rule
A very controversial topic floating around today in newspapers, news broadcasts, and college classrooms is that of California’s three strike law. This law states that a person convicted of 3 felonies will automatically serve 25 years to life upon conviction of their third felony.  Under this statute it is not only the third felony that is harshly punished either. If a person receives a felony conviction and already has one strike against them, they automatically must be sentenced to double what they normally would be sentenced for a new conviction. An example of this second strike punishment would be for example, a man convicted of robbery that would normally be sentenced to 9 years would be sentenced to 18 years instead.  In California, inmates can earn custody credits and under normal circumstances an inmate can get out on good behavior after only serving 50 percent of their original sentence. However, with this new law, 2nd strike offenders must serve 80 percent and 3rd strikers must serve 100 percent.
This third strike statute also does not allow the offender the option of probation or the option of serving any time of their sentence in a rehabilitation institute. Any convictions prior to this law being enacted also can count as a strike. Any violent felonies are counted even if they occur before 1994, when this law was enacted. Juveniles can also get strikes against them if a few conditions are met. They have to be 16 years of age and the crime must be a violent felony. Felony convictions even count if they happen in other states as well.  Multiple strikes can outcome from a single court appearance as well. For example if a man robs another person at gunpoint and then steals a car, a strike would be given for each crime.
I am a transfer student and at my previous college my professor brought the subject up for debate. He gave a real life example of a California man that was going to prison for 25 years because he robbed a pizza guy to feed his family. It was his third strike even though it was a fairly minor crime. I was in shock, almost every person in the lecture thought that was ridiculous. I mean there were people in that class that were fighting mad about it. I admit at first I thought that 25 years is a little harsh but then once I really started to think about it that man had already committed two previous felonies. In my opinion if you have already committed two felonies and commit another, you deserve to stay in prison. I have spoken to quite a few people on this subject and I seem to be in the minority with my feelings on this subject. I agree with this statute 100 percent. Even if the third felony is for something minor and the convict gets 25 years for it. It is still a felony. How can a person commit three felonies and still not deserve to spend a long time in prison? This law has only one problem and it is most likely why more states do not adopt this statute. The prisons are already so overcrowded and in a country with such a high recidivism rate it would make things exponentially worse. It would make the system bog down even more than it already is.


  1. I believe the design of the Three Strike Law is great in its pure form. The goal of the system is deterrence. Who would not be deterred from committing felonies when the punishment for the third felony could be life? This system should have cleaned up the streets and ended crime. According to the Rational Choice Theory individuals have free will and weigh the consequences of committing crime with the pleasure of committing it.

    The Three Strike Law in California, however, has shown us that humans are not always rational. Many people commit crimes to make money, because it is all they know, and to feed their family. Most criminals are not rational because the majority of criminals are drug offenders and they are too high to think rationally or are going through withdrawal and are only worried about getting their next fix.

    The Three Strike Law is an excellent example of McDonaldization in Criminal Justice. This system makes the punishment for committing a felony predictable. The system is efficient because three strikes and the offender is out; the law takes control of the offenders and deters future offenders, and it is calculable because more criminals are sent to prison and as a result more prisons should be built.

    The reality, however, is that too many irrational criminals are being sent to prison for far too long. The system will eventually shut down because the resources will run out. California's large state debt is an example of the system being flawed.

  2. I believe the intent of the three strikes law is a good one unfortunately the implementation has failed. I think that it is too broad. I believe the intent was to remove violent criminals from the community not anybody who has ever committed a crime. It is possible for one crime to be three felonies. I do disagree with one thing you said. I highly doubt the pizza man who was robbed would consider it a minor crime. I would have to know more about the actual robbery. I would definitely think if any weapon was used it would be considerably more than a minor crime. I think that with the overcrowding that is going on, especially in California that this law needs to be reviewed. I am not saying it needs to be done away with only that it needs to be revised. I think it should apply to specific crimes only. The application of it to all felonies is too broad; for example simple possession of some drugs is a felony. So if an addict gets caught three times with his personal use stash he now goes to prison for 25 to life. I believe in California the cost of an inmate per year is somewhere between 45,000 and 50,000 dollars. I simply have to believe that this is not the intent of the law. I believe the saying goes that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  3. I have to disagree with you on this one. You asked a question how can someone commit crimes and not deserve to spend a long time in prison? Simple, California has forgotten about rehabilitation, there is no rehabilitation in prison. If someone has drug felonies and is continuously sentenced to prison how will they learn to better themselves so they dont recidivated back to prison? Sometimes people need help not incarceration.
    In this state it shows that the 3 strike rule isn't reasonable. If it where reasonable it would be overcrowded, this method doesn't deter criminals at all. Califoornia is trying to capitolize on something that is putting them more and more in debt.
    I believe if they took time to review the 3 strikes rule, instead of adhering to the McDonalization effect. They may see the issues of funding, no rehabiltation and no sucess with deterring other criminals.
    I dont think 3 strikes should be done away with , but intensly reviewed.

  4. I like the three strike rule, but I think anyone who commits crimes needs to be stuck with the sentence they get and not be let out early but if they didn't the prisons would be way too overcrowded. Prisons do not even have any or no rehabilitation programs because the funding is no longer available since prisons are already so expensive.

  5. I wonder if the incarceration rate was high before or after 1994. Either way, I think to most people that this rule looks good on paper. It is when you have special circumstances like the one you mention where people start to debate and look down upon this rule. I am going to have to take your side and be part of the minority as well for 2 reasons. 1. Yea, he was trying to feed his family, but what he did was a felony and he knew he was on his last strike. Why would he commit a felony and rob someone? There are plenty of other ways to feed your family without breaking the law and putting yourself in harms way. And more importantly, number 2. this law was put into place because most of the criminals in Cali just kept re-offending. One extreme case should not effect a law that is putting so many criminals behind bars. But yes, I'm sure this law does not help the overcrowding epidemic.