According to The American Heritage Dictionary, law is defined as the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision or the controlling influence of such as rules that the condition of society brought about by their observance (481). However, there is a very unique law that borrowing its name from baseball.
Which is the three strikes law, it imposed mandatory minimum sentences for individuals who have been convicted of three felony crimes that were committed on three separate occasions. According to Bazelon, the ideology behind the three strikes law is that individuals who commit more than two felonies are chronically criminal and therefore pose a threat to society. Three strikes law advocates, as a fair punishment and a benefit to society, thus view incarcerating these individuals for lengthy prison terms or the rest of their lives (2). In 1974, Texas was first state that enacted three strikes law.
Following year, Washington enacted and California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, North Dakota enacted in 1994. Furthermore, in 1995 and 1996, fifteen states are also enacted the three strikes law (Crane 1). As crime and violence increased in the United States, citizens began to feel powerless. Terrorized in their own neighborhoods by criminals, who go in and out of the legal system, people began to believe there was no justice for them. Ironically, many people feared so much the gangs, drug dealers, pushers, and hustlers of the streets.
An enormous outcry came about, requesting the government to fix the increasing crime rate. The answer to this dilemma came in the form of the three strikes law. According to Jabali-Nash, proposition 184, also known as the three strikes law, was passed on November 9, 1994. The proposal had portion of the population supporting it at the ballot boxes. With a 75 percent margin, the law was passed. On March 7, 1994 Governor Pete Wilson signed the proposal into law (1-2). However, Within a few years of implementation, problems with the three strikes law began to arise. One of the issues is the increased cost of incarceration.
In the state of California it costs $20,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate under normal circumstances (Year 2006). This amount of money could put one person through a state college for two or three years. According to the United States Department of Justice article Statistics on Cost in California, the three strikes law has placed 1,300 people in prison for a third strike offense and 14,000 people in prison on a second strike offense (1). The current recidivism rate in California is 70%, which means that out of those 14,000 people that almost 10,000 will be back in prison for a third strike (2-3).
To imprison those 1,300 third strike offenders for the mandatory minimum of twenty-five years will cost the state of California $812,500,000 (3). To support these inmates for longer periods of time we will have to increase the amount of money going to our prison system. This means that either spending in other areas will be cut or an increase of taxes. Neither of which is highly favored by voters. On a national level the Justice Department’s budget has increased an alarming 162% since 1987 (5).
The money that is being spent incarcerating these people can be more well spent in other areas such as education. Also, those money can be spent on crime prevention and rehabilitation, rather than retribution. The other aspect to consider in the implementation of the three strikes legislation is its effect on non-violent offenders. These are the people hardest hit by this law. According Carter, before the three strikes law was enacted it had been estimated that to keep up with the growing prison population on a national level that it was necessary to spend $100,000,000 per week on our prison system (1).
Now that we will be having more and more criminals behind bars we shall have to spend even more money building and keeping up our overcrowded prisons. Of these people that taxpayers are paying to imprison Carter suggests that as many as 80% will be non-violent offenders (3). So far 80% of the second and third strike offenses have been for non-violent crimes, most of these being drug offenses (3-4). There have only been only 53 people with second and third strike convictions for rape, murder, and kidnapping (1). This law’s lack of effectiveness clearly does not warrant its huge price.
It is difficult see how society can justify sending a drug addict to prison for 25 years at a cost of $20,000 per year when the money could be used to fund drug rehabilitation centers and alternative programs for our youth. Most drug users are not in need prison, they are in need of help for their addictions. If a fraction of the money it would cost to imprison them is put toward drug rehabilitation programs it would save the state money, while at the same time helping the individual. The three strikes legislation is directly aimed at violent crime, but its track record as shown that it has missed the mark by a long shot. Some offenders have been convicted for a third strike on relatively small offenses. For example, a man named Steven Gordon was convicted for his third strike after stealing a wallet that had $100 dollars in it. His previous offenses had all been non-violent, yet he was convicted under our three strikes law (Franklin 26). This is not an isolated incident either. Franklin cites numerous examples of cases where people were convicted under this legislation for non-violent offenses(26).
These types of cases just illustrate how the three strikes legislation is targeting non-violent offenders, as opposed to its goal of targeting violent criminals. The State Senate soon after voted the bill into law, with only seven members voting against it. The three strikes initiative stemmed from the killing of Polly Klass by Richard Allen Davis, a convicted felon. In 1993 murder of 12-year old Polly Klaas, whose killer was a paroled felon. After that case, the three strikes laws are statutes enacted by state governments in the United States.
Therefore, congress passed a federal version in 1994 and many states law also doubles minimum terms for second time offenders. The proposal had portion of the population supporting it at the ballot boxes. With a 75 percent margin, the law was passed (Reuben 16). On March 7, 1994 Governor Pete Wilson signed the proposal into law (Franklin 27). Within a few years of implementation, problems with the three strikes law began to arise. Along with a lower crime came the price of overcrowded prisons.
Minor crimes, such as petty theft and burglary received 25 year long sentences. The Three Strikes law significantly increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of felonies who have been previously convicted of a violent crime or serious felony, and limits the ability of these offenders to receive a punishment other than a prison sentence. Violent and serious felonies are specifically listed in state laws. Violent offenses include murder, robbery of a residence in which a deadly or dangerous weapon is used, rape and other ex offenses; serious offenses include the same offenses defined as violent offenses, but also include other crimes such as burglary of a residence and assault with intent to commit a robbery or murder. Within a few years of implementation, problems with the three strikes law began to arise. Along with a lower crime came the price of overcrowded prisons. Minor crimes, such as petty theft and burglary received 25 year long sentences. Now, Californians wonder if the three strikes law gave them more than they had asked for.