A move to align California three strikes law with NZ

New America Media reports:

 Supporters of Proposition 36 are optimistic that changing attitudes toward prison reform, coupled with economic considerations, will have Californians voting in favor of tempering their state’s controversial repeat offender law, known as “ and You’re Out,” in the upcoming November election.

“Popular support has always been high for reforming Three Strikes,” says Prop. 36 advocate Geri Silva, director and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes. “People realize that sending someone to prison for life for stealing a donut is absurd.” 

Backers of Prop.36 had no trouble gathering the 504,760 signatures required by law to get their measure on the state ballot – about 800,000 people signed the petition — and a recent statewide survey conducted by Pepperdine University’s policy school shows 78.1 percent of likely voters supporting it. …

Proposition 184 imposed a mandatory 25 years to life prison sentence for anyone in the state convicted of a third felony, including non-violent offenses like drug possession and theft. 

Today, twenty-six other states have similar sentencing laws on the books, but California’s Three Strikes law is widely considered one of the most severe.  …

Proposition 36 would amend Three Strikes by imposing a 25 years to life sentence only if the third conviction is for a serious or violent felony.

The mandatory 25 to life sentence would still be invoked, however, for any third felony conviction if the individual also has a previous conviction for murder, rape or child molestation. 

Under Prop.36, those with two strikes would be sentenced to twice the usual time for their third conviction for a non-serious felony, in lieu of the life sentence. Some 3,000 California inmates currently serving a 25 to life term for non-serious or nonviolent third strikes would become eligible to petition judges for re-sentencing, if the measure is approved.

Proposition 36 would bring the California law closer to the NZ one. In NZ you only get a strike for serious violent or sexual offences, and the third strike is only for life without parole if you kill someone. Otherwise it is the maximum sentence without parole.

I think the NZ three strikes law is well balanced, and may become a model. It is a pity Labour wants to repeal it.

Proposition 36 is backed by three DAs, a law professor and a police chief and the California Democratic Party. It is opposed by  the president of the California State Sheriff’s Association,  the president of the California District Attorneys Association, the president of Crime Victims United of California, the president of the California Peace (Police) Officers Association, and the California Republican Party.

The vote is on 6 November 2012.

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