CA’s 3-Strikes Reform Ideas Will Test Public Crime Views


Does the possibility that California will ease the stiffest provision of its “three strikes, you’re out” law signal a turnaround in public opinion on crime? Perhaps, but two initiatives must first qualify for the ballot and then be enacted. “California’s attempts to revisit three strikes is important nationally because it suggests that the rule of American politics that has been a truism since 1968 – that anything that sounds tougher on crime is a political winner – may be coming less true,” Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Christian Science Monitor. “The public has become increasingly aware of outrageous injustices in highly publicized, heart-rending cases at the same time they feel the weight of added costs to the system.”

If Californians allow judges more discretion in sentencing three-timers, their decision could be felt in about two dozen other states that enacted similar three-strikes laws over the past 13 years. “The public has expressed legitimate concerns about [the law’s] use against those who commit new, nonviolent, not serious offenses,” says Steve Cooley, Los Angeles County district attorney and coauthor of one of the initiatives, the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2006. “We think that if we don’t fix the law, we may lose it to those who would weaken it so much it would lose its teeth.” Yet David LeBahn of the California District Attorneys Association declares: “Three strikes is fine the way it is. There is already enough flexibility built into the law to eliminate the unfairness that the public has complained about.”


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