A coalition led by a group of Stanford University lawyers intends to put an initiative on the November 2012 ballot to reform California’s Three Strikes Law, the harshest such sentencing law in the nation, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The group has at least one major financial backer, David Mills, a former investment banker and Stanford Law School professor. It also hired San Francisco political consultant Averell “Ace” Smith to lead what is expected to be a fiery campaign.
The group, including Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, is courting key Republicans such as Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, at a time when fiscal conservatives have called for prison reform. The language of the new initiative is still being worked out, but at least it would limit felonies that trigger the “third” strike to violent or serious crimes. In late 2004, about 3,500 — or just less than half of the third-strikers in prison — had not committed a serious or violent crime. Proponents say the provision allowing prosecutors to charge any felony as a third strike is the harshest of some 24 similar laws in the nation. They contend it is unjust and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Supporters argue the law has reduced crime and kept the streets safer.