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Mercury News Editorial: State Must Fix Three Strikes Law

Publication Date: 
November 29, 2011
San Jose Mercury News

The Three Strikes Project was featured in this San Jose Mercury News story on the efforts by members to collect 500,000 signatures so they can place the initiative on the November 2012 ballot.

Californians can no longer afford their emotional overreaction to the high crime rates of the 1990s. It's past time to revise the state's 17-year-old Three Strikes Law and take a more nuanced approach to dealing with repeat felons.

Stanford University's Three Strikes Project, led by law professor Michael Romano, is drafting an initiative and hopes to collect the 500,000 signatures needed to place it on the November 2012 ballot. We'll have to see the final details, but the project's aim to apply the law to only serious or violent third offenders is on target. This would not only save money now wasted on incarcerating aging criminals but also would steer the law closer to what we believe voters intended back in 1994.

Romano calls California's law the harshest sentencing tool in the United States. Passed in the wake of Richard Allen Davis' brutal kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, it was sold as the way to permanently lock up violent, repeat offenders and make our communities safe. Unfortunately, it has been used by some district attorneys to give life sentences to about 4,000 inmates who committed nonviolent crimes. Nearly 9,000 prisoners in California have life sentences under the Three Strikes Law.