In an unforeseen consequence of easing California’s tough Three Strikes Law, many inmates who have won early release are hitting the streets with up to only $200 in prison “gate money” and the clothes on their backs, reports the San Jose Mercury News. These former lifers are not eligible for parole and thus will not get the guidance and services they need to help them succeed on the outside, such as access to employment opportunities, vocational training and drug rehabilitation.
The lack of oversight and assistance for this first wave of “strikers” alarms both proponents and opponents of the revised Three Strikes Law — as well as the inmates themselves. Experts say California voters didn’t have this situation in mind when they approved Proposition 36 in November by an overwhelming margin. Under the new law, judges cannot impose a life sentence on most repeat offenders who commit minor crimes. But the law also allows about 3,000 inmates whose last strike was a minor crime to petition for early release or shorter sentences. Many of those strikers have already been locked up longer than their newly calculated terms and usual period of parole, leaving many to fend for themselves without supervision or assistance once they are released.