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Three Strikes Project

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 for petty crimes and also worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Inc. to reform the harshest aspects of the Three Strikes law. Last year, the Project collaborated with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to pass the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Proposition 36).

California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law was originally enacted in 1994 and is widely recognized as the harshest sentencing law in the United States.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 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.

Since the enactment of Three Strikes Reform Act (Proposition 36) in November of 2012, Project staff and Stanford Law students have been working alongside public defenders throughout California to make sure the new law is implemented fairly and consistently. As of August 2013, over 1,000 individuals have been resentenced and released under Proposition 36.

The Three Strikes 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 in conjunction with individual representation of prisoners serving Three Strikes sentences.

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.”

News Features

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of the Three Strikes Laws
Rolling Stone

Righting the Wrongs of "Three Strikes" Life Sentences
CBS Evening News

California Horor Stories and the 3-Strikes Law 
The New York Times

Arguing Three Strikes | Video
The New York Times

Law Students Help Free Three-Strikes Offenders
Los Angeles Times

Criminal Law in California
The Economist