Serious crime has dropped at about the same rate in states with “three strikes and you’re out” sentencing laws as in states without such measures, says the Justice Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization advocating alternatives to incarceration. Most of the laws provide for life terms in prison on conviction of a third serious offense. In the decade since nearly half the states enacted some form of three strikes, violent crime reports in “three strikes” states declined 33 percent while such cases in non-three strikes states fell 34.3 percent. The institute concludes that three strikes had a “disappointing crime-control impact.”
An example from neighboring states: Violent crime during the decade went down in Alabama, which lacks a three-strikes law, by nearly 43 percent. Violent crime dropped in Florida and Georgia, which passed three-strikes laws, at a slightly lower rate. The institute found that only California, Florida, and Georgia imprisoned more than 400 people under three strikes during the decade. California, with a broad three strikes law, incarcerated about 4 times as many convicts under its law as all the other states combined, even though those other states have more than three times California’s population.