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Politics Of 'Three Strikes' Law

Publication Date: 
May 08, 2011
Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
Author: 
John Diaz

Professor Michael Romano gives his opinion on California's "three strikes" law, including how much it's costing tax payers, in this San Francisco Chronicle article written by John Diaz.

The "three strikes and you're out" law passed in the aftermath of the awful 1993 kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas was advertised as a way to keep violent predators in prison. But the initiative passed by California voters was laden with unintended consequences - and cannot be changed in any significant way without another statewide vote. More than half of the third "strikes" that have triggered a 25-to-life sentence involve neither serious nor violent felonies. Even shoplifting can be escalated to a third-strike felony - bringing life imprisonment - for those with prior convictions of petty theft.

The law may be absurd, but it's proving difficult to change, as Gloria Romero knows all too well.

Prisons were built for the Richard Allen Davises of the world. Every cent spent keeping folks with his record of unrelenting violence segregated from the rest of society is well spent.

...

"Worst criminal law in the country," said Michael Romano, a Stanford law professor whose students have been working on behalf of "three strikes" inmates. One of them stole two faucets from Home Depot as his third strike; another was caught in possession of a stolen cell phone; another tried to steal a car radio on the day the "three strikes" law was signed. Each is serving a life term, at a cost of more than $40,000 a year to taxpayers, with the tab certain to rise greatly as inmates age and health costs rise.