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Freed 3-Strikes Inmates Have Low Recidivism Rate, Report Finds

Publication Date: 
September 10, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Jack Leonard

Professor David Mills and Three Strike Project Director and Co-Founder Michael Romano spoke with The Los Angeles Times' Jack Leonard about a new report co-published by the Three Strikes Project which indicates that inmates released under Proposition 36 have a lower recidivism rate than other prisoners freed on parole. 

More than 1,000 inmates previously sentenced to life in prison have been freed since voters approved changes to California's three-strikes law in November, with only a handful charged with new offenses since their release, according to a report released Monday.

The authors of the report, who helped write and campaign for the ballot initiative, said third-strikers released under Proposition 36 have a lower recidivism rate than other prisoners freed on parole, helping save the state millions of dollars by opening up space in crowded prisons without jeopardizing public safety.


"There are so many prisoners who are sitting in prison waiting to be released, and even those who are released don't have the benefit of the kinds of rehabilitation and reentry services that are desperately needed," said David Mills, a Stanford University law professor who was a prime backer of the proposition.


Michael Romano, who runs the Stanford Law School project, said the bottleneck in L.A. County appears to lie with the district attorney's office. Prosecutors, he said, were taking longer than other district attorneys to research the backgrounds of third-strikers before deciding whether to oppose resentencing.

Romano acknowledged that Los Angeles has the largest caseload of any county but said the district attorney's office has not committed enough prosecutors to handle the volume and appears to be conducting a much stricter and more time-consuming review of cases than other prosecutorial offices.

"These are people who … voters have said should not be in prison any longer," he said.


Romano said most released third-strikers accused of reoffending have been charged with minor misdemeanors, such as drug crimes, joy riding and providing a false name to police.

"For every one person who has committed a new crime, 100 are out and doing extraordinarily well," he said.

Nevertheless, he and Mills said more needs to be done. They called on the state and counties to provide former three-strikes inmates with substance abuse counseling, job training, mental health services and housing — resources that they said were essential to helping former third-strikers live productive lives outside prison.