A day after California voted to soften its three-strikes sentencing law, defense lawyers prepared to seek reduced punishments for thousands of offenders serving up to life in prison for relatively minor crimes, reports the Los Angeles Times. The process of asking courts to revisit old sentences could take as long as two years and benefit roughly 3,000 prisoners. They represent about a third of incarcerated third-strikers.
Proposition 36 garnered 69 percent of the vote. The initiative won in all 58 counties, amending one of the nation’s toughest three-strikes laws, one that had overwhelming voter support when it was approved in 1994 amid heightened anxiety over violent crime. Courts can reject a request to reduce a sentence if they determine the prisoner is a danger to public safety. Inmates with prior convictions for rape, murder, and child molestation cannot be released under the measure. “This is not going to open the prison floodgates,” said Garrick Byers of the Fresno County public defender’s office.