Undoubtedly, “3 strikes” as a concept remains popular. But dig a little deeper and there are a lot of questions:
The San Jose Mercury News reported last week that a group is crafting ballot language and seeking high-profile endorsements for an initiative that would require that a third strike result only from a serious or violent felony conviction. Under California’s law, a third strike can be assessed for any felony, at times bringing sentences of 25 years to life prison for those convicted of crimes like petty theft.
On the same day the Mercury News article published, the Field Poll released survey results (PDF) showing 74 percent of registered voters would support altering the three-strikes law.
Thing is, back in 2006, Prop 66 had similar support before a horde of DAs and “ToughOnCrime” folks decided that discretion for judges just wasn’t necessary. Apparently we need a hard and fast rule that locks up thousands of people for sometimes rather petty crimes. The current 3-strikes prison count is at about 6% of the prison population, or about 8800 prisoners.
We should hear something about this proposed change to the policy, and then we can proceed on whether it is a step in the right direction. But at this point, it is hard to see how anything could be worse than what we’re doing.