A campaign to amend California’s “three-strikes” law to exclude nonviolent felonies from triggering lifetime prison sentences appears headed for the ballot. Citizens Against Violent Crime nearly 700,000 petition signatures yesterday, far more than the 373,816 needed to qualify for the November ballot, reports the Sacramento Bee.
The effort is led by Joe Klaas, grandfather of Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old girl kidnapped from her bedroom during a slumber party and killed by parolee Richard Allen Davis in October 1993. Klaas said the new measure would improve the law by toughening penalties for child molesters while removing the possibility that criminals will spend life in prison for crimes as minor as stealing pizza.
The proposal is opposed by law enforcement groups, tough-on-crime organizations, and by Klaas’ son, Marc, the father of Polly, whose death helped spur public support for enactment of the law in 1994. “I think the ‘three-strikes’ law seems to be working quite well, thank you,” said Marc Klaas, founder of the KlaasKids Foundation, dedicated to fighting crimes against children. “You don’t make society safer by putting creeps back on the street.”
The law imposes longer prison sentences on offenders who have prior convictions for serious or violent crimes. Prison terms are doubled for anyone who commits a felony offense and has one prior conviction for a serious or violent crime. Mandatory prison terms of 25 years to life are imposed for a third strike – a conviction of someone with two or more serious or violent crimes on his or her record.