Patterico's Pontifications

4/6/2004

The Three Strikes Solution

Filed under: Crime,No on 66 — Patterico @ 6:42 am

I would like to round out my multi-day discussion of the Three Strikes Law with the observation that I understand the feelings of those who support some kind of revision of the law.

I know that, at times, the law has been applied (in my view) too harshly. Personally, I have never sent anyone away for 25-to-life in a case in which I thought it would be unfair. However, I know that it does happen. At times, a strict application of the law has resulted in a life sentence that can reasonably be viewed as too harsh.

Take, for example, someone who committed two robberies or residential burglaries when he was in his late teens or early twenties. Assume no weapon was used, and no victim was injured. That person is now in his late thirties or early forties and is arrested for shoplifting or drug possession. Despite his two prior strikes, there is no hint of violence in his record since he was a young man.

Should the state spend the money to incarcerate someone like that for the rest of his life? I think reasonable people can conclude: no, someone like that doesn’t deserve 25-to-life.

People should understand that an example as sympathetic as this one is rare. A defendant like this would probably get a break from a judge, in most cases. But the system isn’t perfect. One prosecutor sees things differently from another. The same goes for judges. How many inappropriate cases are out there depends in part upon your perspective. But I agree that there are some people serving life who probably shouldn’t be.

How to fix this problem is an interesting question. The options range from a broader use of discretion by District Attorneys, to some less extreme tinkering with the law’s provisions.

All I know is that the upcoming initiative ain’t the solution.


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