Three Strikes Reform

The “get tough on crime” movement of past decades has saddled the court system with a big array of mandatory sentences that keep our prisons and jails full but have not been shown to deter crime. California has the harshest “Three Strikes” law in the country – a law that locks people away for 25 years to life even if their third offense was a very minor crime. We can’t put an end to mass incarceration without revisiting and reforming mindless mandatory sentencing laws.

California’s Prison Experiment

What happens when you release thousands of prison inmates before the end of their sentences? It’s a question at the heart of the effort to address America’s overincarceration crisis. There are the inevitable warnings that crime will go up, but they are rarely borne out by the facts. California’s most recent prison and jail reform offers perhaps the best test case yet. Until recently, California locked up more people per capita than any other state. It has been under federal court order … [Read more...]

Three-Strikes Changes Appear to Be Working

While Justice Not Jails celebrates the reality that Dan Morain reports--i.e. the very low recidivism rate among the released Striker population--we also point out that the releases have proceeded very slowly. Too slowly. And in LA County community advocates have had to scramble to find free beds and services for the returnees because the county supervisors here inexplicably and inexcusably refuse to use any of the county's hundreds of millions in state AB 109 funds to meet the needs of this … [Read more...]

After Third Strike, Many Now Walk

California begins to release prisoners after reforming its three-strikes law In 1992, 18-year-old student Kimber Reynolds came home to Fresno, California, to be a bridesmaid. As she left a restaurant, two men rolled up on a motorcycle and tried to snatch her purse. When she resisted, one of them shot her. She died 26 hours later. As the Reynolds family grieved, they learned that the shooter and his accomplice both had long rap sheets, largely for drugs and petty theft. Outraged that they … [Read more...]

Inmates Released Early Under Three Strikes Revision Have Low Recidivism Rate

In less than 10 months, California has let 1,000 inmates out of prison early. Opponents said the releases would lead to an increase in crime, but a new report by the Stanford Three Strikes Project, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund shows that the released inmates' recidivism rate has been comparatively low. The report says the 1,000 prisoners released early so far have a recidivism rate of 2 percent -- as opposed to the usual 16 percent for all California inmates. They were … [Read more...]

What Crime Victims Really Want

Flipping through this year’s proposed criminal justice legislation, it is hard to miss Crime Victims United (CVU), a seemingly-omnipresent victims’ rights group that registers strong support for tough-on-crime legislation and adamant opposition to bills seeking to reform sentencing laws or reduce incarceration. Their stance is in line with the conventional wisdom that victims want vengeance and favor a punitive approach to criminal justice. But despite CVU’s dominance in the media and in … [Read more...]

LA Supervisors: Why Oppose Ban the Box?

A Pointed Question for LA County Supervisors: Why Oppose AB 218 (the "Ban the Box" Bill)?? Populous Los Angeles County gets the lion's share of the sisters and brothers coming out of prison under AB 109 Realignment and also as a result of the passage of Prop 36, which gives Three Strikes people a chance at re-sentencing and release. Everyone knows that the number one challenge re-entering people face is the need to find gainful employment. Governmental bodies, which have an obvious stake in … [Read more...]

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws

On July 15th, 1995, in the quiet Southern California city of Whittier, a 33-year-old black man named Curtis Wilkerson got up from a booth at McDonald's, walked into a nearby mall and, within the space of two hours, turned himself into the unluckiest man on Earth. "I was supposed to be waiting there while my girlfriend was at the beauty salon," he says. So he waited. And waited. After a while, he paged her. "She was like, 'I need another hour,'" he says. "So I was like, 'Baby, I'm going to the … [Read more...]

Three strikes reform could save $100 million a year

Voters will have the chance to dramatically remake California’s criminal justice system this fall. A ballot initiative to repeal the death penalty in California has already qualified for the November ballot:  Instead of death, the convicted would face life terms without the possibility of parole. And last week, supporters of an initiative to reform the Three Strikes law submitted more than 830,000 signatures to the state  (they need just 504,760) to qualify for the November ballot. This … [Read more...]