The Stanford Three Strikes Project is the only legal organization in the country devoted to addressing excessive sentences imposed under California's Three Strikes sentencing law. The Project represents individuals currently imprisoned under the law and works, on behalf of its clients in collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Inc., to reform the harshest aspects of the Three Strikes law, including the recent enactment of the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Proposition 36).
The Three Strikes law was enacted in 1994 and is widely recognized as the harshest sentencing law in the United States. Over 4,000 inmates in California are serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law for non-violent crimes. Project clients have been given life sentences for offenses including stealing one dollar in loose change from a parked car, possessing less than a gram of narcotics, and attempting to break into a soup kitchen.
The Project is primarily staffed by Stanford Law students and is deeply committed to a pedagogic mission of experiential education. Project students enroll in an intensive seminar in advanced criminal law and take primary responsibility for litigating our cases. Since 2009, Project students have led one of the country’s most successful criminal defense efforts, winning the early release of more than two dozen clients sentenced to life in prison. Former Project student Ashley Simonsen (’10) says the Project was “the richest, most meaningful experience of my law school career. The work is not only important, but also complex and fascinating.”
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Criminal Law in California