In what could be a blueprint for other states, Washington is reviewing the cases of some nonviolent three-strikes prisoners and moving to release those who probably would not face such a severe punishment today, reports the Los Angeles Times. “We’re talking about the kinds of offenses that if you were to poll the average person, they’d say, ‘Yeah, it’s bad, but is it deserving of mandatory life in prison without parole?’ ” said Jennifer Walsh, a political science professor who has studied three-strikes laws across the country.
In California, where the law is less harsh than in Washington, two-strikers get a doubled penalty, and three-strikers face 25 years to life, with parole. More than 40,800 of the state’s 170,000 inmates are behind bars under second- or third-strike provisions, with more than 8,400 of them sentenced to the full 25 years to life. Washington was reeling from a series of horrific crimes committed by repeat offenders when voters passed the three-strikes initiative, whose early proponents included relatives of crime victims.