Three Strikes And You

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Three Strikes And You’re Out Essay, Research Paper Running head: THREE STRIKES Three Strikes and You’re Out Kelly Jay Stewart CRIM 440 21 November 2000 Three Strikes and You’re Out Samuel Walker, author of Sense and Nonsense about Crime and Drugs, presented us in his book with forty-eight propositions that dealt with crime, drugs, and our efforts toward getting rid of these problems. A few of these propositions informed us on positive actions taking place in our criminal justice system, but the majority of them told us what was not working to fight crime and drugs. One of those propositions that was a negative aspect of our justice system today in Mr. Walker’s eyes was the “three strikes and you’re out” laws (referred to here after as three strikes laws). He

gives numerous reasons why this law is not considered to be an effective one. This paper will first explain Walker’s view on the issue and then review some of the current research and opinions on the matter. Samuel Walker conducted very thorough research on the propositions he presented to us in his book. His twentieth proposition read as follows; “ ‘Three strikes and you’re out’ laws are a terrible crime policy” (Walker, 1998: 140). Walker justifies his claim by asking and then explaining three questions. The first question is whether the law would actually be implemented. Walker states that “hardly any states were using there three strikes laws” (Walker, 1998: 138). California is leading the nation in prosecutions of offenders through the current two and three

strikes laws (Tischler, 1999). Fifteen of the twenty-three states that have three strikes laws have incarcerated between zero and six inmates since 1993 according to The Campaign for an Effective Crime Policy (Tischler, 1999). The second reason Walker cites is the impact of the three strikes laws on the criminal justice system. These laws are affecting the system by overcrowding prisons, subjecting criminals to excessive prison terms, and costing society entirely too much money (Walker, 1998). The three strikes law in California stipulates that your first two “strikes” are acquired when you commit two serious or violent felonies. However the third strike can be any type of felony, violent or nonviolent (Schafer, 1999). For this reason, more and more criminals are being put

away, especially in California, for third strikes that are nonviolent and relatively small crimes and overcrowding our prisons at a fast rate. In 1996, males under the age of twenty-five accounted for forty-five percent of the individuals arrested for index crimes (Schafer, 1999). This raises questions for skeptics of three strikes laws. Why incarcerate offenders for life when their criminal tendencies statistically drop after a certain age? These opponents assert that three strikes laws subject offenders to over-incarceration. This leads to the next issue concerning money. Burr states in his study comparing the impact of the three strikes law in California to the impact in Canada that “over-incarceration does not serve the interest of justice or the interests of the

taxpayer” (2000: 5). Walker estimates that if California were to implement the new law to the full extent for the next twenty-five years, the state would have to pay an extra $5.5 billion (1998). A significant piece of this estimate would be funding the incarceration of elderly prisoners who require more funds to maintain (Walker, 1998). The third reason Walker uses to support his proposition is that the law will not reduce crime (1998). He supports this claim by stating that there is no evidence that crime has been reduced by these laws and that the law is not consistently enforced (1998). Burr affirms this statement in his own study by stating that “no study has demonstrated that the three strikes law has reduced violence” (2000). As stated earlier, the three strikes law