On November 6, 2012, California voters passed Proposition 36, giving inmates imprisoned under the controversial three-strikes an opportunity to have their cases reassessed by the court and potentially have their sentences truncated.. The Three-Strikes Law sentences individuals to 25 years to life in prison after being convicted of three felon Proponents of Prop. 36 often argue that what constitutes as a felony can be far too minor to warrant such harsh punishments.
Individuals who have previously been found guilty for severe violent crimes such as rape, murder, or child molestation will not be eligible to have their cases reexamined under Prop. 36. Courts can choose to reject any prisoner’s request for reduced sentence under the proposition should they consider the individual dangerous (Leonard and Dolan).
Currently, 2,800 of the 8,900 inmates incarcerated under the three-strikes law may be up for parole under the new proposition (Romano and Area). The law passed with 69% support of the statewide vote, and passed in each of California’s 58 counties. The law allows for a reexamination of many individuals that are currently incarcerated under the three-strikes law, in particular individuals whose final offense was non-violent. These crimes span anywhere from shoplifting to possession of drugs (including marijuana).
California voters approved previous three-strikes law amendments in the past, the most notable was Prop. 36 in 2000, which allowed some non-violent offenders with drug-related charges to seek drug rehabilitation treatment. Unfortunately, there were long term flaws to this amendment in terms of justice, practicality, and rehabilitation. First, funding for the treatment of these individuals was cut, and it did not act retroactively.
In addition to the obvious benefits to the 2, 800 inmates and their families, Proposition 36 also yields many financial benefits to Californians who have been seeing overcrowding within the jail system for decades. While we rarely hear about it, we actually put more of California’s budget into prisons than higher education. As we release more inmates who are caught up in complex laws and live up to the rehabilitation portion of the “Corrections and Rehabilitations” Department title, giving them opportunities to rejoin the community, we actually will also save an estimate $90 million per year (Sankin).
Leonard, Jack and Maura Dolan. Softer 3-strikes law has defense lawyers preparing case reviews. 8 November 2012.
Romano, Michael and NBC Bay Area. Prop. 36 Passes; Will Modify California Three Strike Law. November 2012.
Sankin, Aaron. California Prop 36, Measure Reforming State’s THree Strikes Law, Approved By Wide Majority of Voters. 7 November 2012.