U.N.I.O.N. MEMBERS PUBLISHED
TO AMEND THE THREE STRIKES LAW
May 2, 2002
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Re "State Prison System $277 Million in the Red,'' April 25: As if we needed one more reason to amend California's three-strikes law, we now have 277 million more of them. At some point the obscene amount of money the state spends incarcerating nonviolent offenders must be addressed, and amending the law to apply to violent offenders would save the state about $800 million per year.
Kudos to the state Senate subcommittee for voting down the governor's proposal for yet another prison. We don't need it. We don't want it. We do want and seriously need some balance in our justice system.
Joy Johnson Adelanto
Published: Thu, Mar 14, 2002
Shouldn't 'three strikes' protect all?
A letter writer (Reporter, March 6) is so right that the "three strikes, you're out" law is about protection. What he may not see is that the controversy about it is also about protection, of a different sort.
It's a very severe law, the one that takes away a person's freedom for life. It's not something to be applied just because we're mad at bad behavior. Only violent crimes are serious enough to warrant such a drastic sentence.
Punishment must be in proportion to the crime. That is a principle of criminal justice in nontotalitarian countries. It is a principle that protects all citizens from unjust treatment by a criminal justice system that must necessarily be administered by human beings and, therefore, is less than perfect.
The writer asks, "Why would a person who has been sent to state prison ... on at least two other occasions ever commit another crime?" He seems to assume that we're all very rational, well-off, sane, unaddicted, educated, employed, non-minority, family-supported individuals who wouldn't do such a stupid thing. He also may be assuming that the real criminal is always the one convicted and is charged fairly, that police don't ever overstep fair procedure, that prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges always operate on an ideal level, and that prison is a place where people go to "reflect upon their wrongdoings" and learn how to be better.
Unfortunately, life is a little messier than that, and in the process of protecting ourselves against crime we must not give up the right to have our acts judged in proportion to their seriousness.
Totalitarian governments control crime quite successfully, but at what cost?
Deborah D. Jimenez, Santa Rosa
March 12, 2002
Editor -- "Three strikes" is seen as a great protection for society against habitual criminals. Controversy over it is also about protection of a different sort. A principle of criminal justice is that punishment must be in proportion to the crime. It's a principle that protects all citizens from unjust treatment by a human system that must be less than perfect.
We can't assume that the real criminal is always the one accused, that police don't ever overstep fair procedure, that courts always operate at an ideal level and that prison is a place where a convict learns to be better. When we hand out a sentence for life, we had better be sure it's for a serious reason -- namely, violence.
Protection of our rights before the law must not be thrown away in the name of protecting ourselves from crime. It's too risky.
DEBORAH D. JIMENEZ
This is wonderful coverage of the Three Strikes Hearing and our Raise a Stink campaign. We thank you so much Orange County Register! There are 280 boxes reported sent so far. We urge our cooperating organizations to get involved. Go to
Unless Davis sees there is an ORGANIZED, mainstream group of voters opposing him, he is never going to pass any of the human rights bills.
B. Cayenne Bird
3 strikes reform
April 14, 2000
The state Assembly has begun to take steps toward modifying California's uniquely onerous Three-Strikes Law with the passage of AB 2447 by the Assembly Public Safety Committee last week. If the issue could be divorced from partisan politics and political campaigns - which unfortunately is not very likely - reform would probably be a cinch. But it is a political issue and at least in public certain positions have become set in stone.
When the voters approved the Three-Strikes Law in 1994 they thought they were enhancing penalties for violent crimes. But California's law turns out to be more stringent than the national law or than any other state's law. It includes not just violent crimes but any felony. Most states stipulate that the three strikes occur within a time frame of five to 10 years, the idea being to get genuine career criminals. In California there is no time limit; a juvenile offense can be counted as a strike 20 years later.
Consequently, as the Legislative Analyst's Office recently reported, of the 43,800 people now in prison on second strikes and 5,700 in for 25 years to life on third strikes, few are in for violent crimes. Only 40 percent of third-strikers are in for a violent crime. Of second-strikers, less than 20 percent are in for a violent crime - 36 percent are in for property crimes and 33 percent for drug offenses (20 percent for simple possession).
Most authorities estimate that it costs taxpayers $25,000 to $30,000 a year to keep somebody in prison, and those figures are probably conservative. If there were clear-cut evidence that the Three-Strikes Law had reduced crime, it might be viewed as worth it to spend all that money.
But crime rates in California began to decline before the law was enacted, and they haven't declined more rapidly since. Crime rates have declined in states with and without Three-Strikes Laws at about the same rates. In San Francisco, where prosecutors hardly ever invoke the law, crime has actually declined a bit faster than in Los Angeles County, where prosecutors use it as often as possible.
The passage of the 'strikes' law was facilitated by the enormous public outrage at the murder of young Polly Klaas in Northern California. But at last week's hearing, Polly's grandfather, Joe Klaas, argued eloquently that he didn't want this law to be Polly's legacy. 'To take someone who has committed a nonviolent crime and send them to prison for 25 years to life is unconscionable,' he said.
The hearing room and halls were filled with opponents of the law and AB 2447, written by Los Angeles Democrat Rod Wright, which would make only violent crimes 'strikable' offenses, passed the committee 5-3.
Unfortunately, politics still reigns over common sense on this issue. None of the Republicans on the committee voted for reform and most observers expect Gov. Davis, who seems to live in constant fear of being accused of being 'soft on crime,' to veto a reform bill if it passes.
Many politicians who understand the shortcomings of the current law are afraid a vote to make it more sensible will be used against them in the next election campaign.
With the economy booming and unemployment low, it is difficult to get most Californians exercised about any political issue. The prison-reform organization UNION (United for No Injustice, Oppression or Neglect) has begun a light-hearted 'Raise a Stink' campaign, urging people to send Gov. Davis a box with a note about three strikes inside a bottle and a few onions. No word yet on how it's going.
Reforming California's unnecessarily expensive and ineffective Three- Strikes Law should be a simple common-sense move rather than a partisan struggle. Until it becomes that - until citizens of both parties let legislators know they're ready - progress is likely to be achingly slow.
Printed in Change Links Magazine
Three Strikes, Inhumane Failure
click to read expose written by UNION Director, Journalist B. Cayenne Bird
Published November, 1998, just before the election by Director B. Cayenne Bird, Prison Reform Grows
Click here to read our history http://www.labridge.com/change-links/prison2.htm
Re: Voices: Three-strikes law must be kept intact: Ed Jagels (Bakersfield District Attorney)
Jagel's pandering to the public's desire for the illusion of safety is costing Californians their basic freedoms and tax dollars at an alarming rate. The three strikes initiative, now almost six years old, has been applied with great inconsistency from county to county (which is common with initiatives' poorly drafted contents) and has sent thousands of people to prison for life who pose no serious threat to the community.
Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee correctly points out that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) has become the largest and most powerful lobbying interest in our state and supports what has become arguably the largest tax based industry in California. Their dollars have ensured the election and appointment of bureaucrats at all levels to nurture this industry's growth, including our elected governor who has declared essentially that any prisoner with an inderminate sentence is 'going home in a pine box'. These audacious actions circumvent the legislative process that defines sentencing guidelines, as well as the judicial process that so carefully selects and charges a jury with finding the appropriate sentence for a given offense.
Unfortunately, power and politics has replaced justice in California. Even Polly Klaas' grandfather stated in last week's hearings "To take someone who has committed a nonviolent crime and send them to prison for 25 years to life is unconscionable. To have (Polly's) name used to perpetuate this fraud on the people of California I think is a disgrace." It is time to amend this law.
The Three Strikes law must be amended.
The Public Safety Hearing passed the AB2447 with a 5-3 vote. Evidently, Ed Jagels and several other law enforcement organizations were unable to convince our legislators that the Three Strikes Law, as it is written today, is working.
What our legislators were saying by passing the amended bill was that there must be a better way to ensure public safety rather than locking someone up for 25 to life for non-violent crimes.
What this bill will do is correct extreme injustices such as locking up citizens over the theft of cookies, theft of a screwdriver or theft of a loaf of bread. What Ed Jagels failed to mention is that there are hundreds of cases of average citizens that are prosecuted for "non"- violent crimes everyday with no proven history of "violence" that are being sent away for term to life sentences. And that there are no proven statistics anywhere that the Three Strikes Law, prisons, or other harsh methods do anything to deter people from committing crimes.
There are better solutions to achieve public safety and its time for our legislators to take a look at those solutions before our entire nation is imprisoned. These solutions include restorative justice techniques, prevention through education, and rehabilitation. The media needs to make the public aware of the need for this AB2447 bill.
Voices: Three-strikes law must be kept intact
I would like to respond to this article. For one thing many of us know of Ed Jagels reputation of not only being hard on crime but putting away INNOCENT PEOPLE.
I would like to see him tell the truth about the three strikes law. It is not working. It is not a good thing. It does put many people on prison for life that has not violent acts. It is in the media everyday pretty much isn't it. Please Mr. Ed Jagels stop lying to the people whom pay taxes for warehousing our people. Enough with the lies and enough with a corrupt system.
Ed Jagels justifies Earl Randle’s 25 year sentence on “probables” and “speculations,” that he “probably” had committed other crimes which he had never been caught for; on “speculation” of how many crimes he may have committed from 1994 to 1998. So all these “probable” and “speculated” crimes (innocent until proven guilty?) justify the 25 year prison sentence for stealing a saw?
Or is he actually saying that 25 years in prison is a just sentence for stealing a saw, a carton of cigarettes, a piece of pizza, a loaf of bread, a bottle of vitamins; for forgery; for perjury; for DUI’s?
This is cruel and unusual punishment and is unconstitutional! How can he justify 25 years in prison for these types of crime based on assumptions and speculations about possible other crimes committed? This type of thinking scares me…where is this type of mentality leading us?
Due to the impact "Three Strikes" cases have on jails, some counties are releasing more sentenced and pre-sentenced "Three Strikes" offenders from custody. So let’s release 1st offense murderers and rapists early to make room for 3rd strike petty theft?
The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) along with University of California, Irvine School, published a study on the implementation of the "Three Strikes" law in various California counties; using data collected by the CDC and the Department of Justice from the 12 largest California counties. The study confirmed that a county's reliance upon, or heavy use of, the "Three Strikes" law in sentencing did not correlate to lower rates of crimes.
Counties such as Alameda (in addition to San Francisco) that sent a smaller percentage of defendants to prison under "Three Strikes" sentences had greater decreases in crime, particularly violent crime, than did counties such as Sacramento and Los Angeles, that relied heavily upon "Three Strikes" in charging and sentencing defendants.
In conclusion, …”San Francisco, the county which uses 'Three Strikes' most sparingly, witnessed a greater decline in violent crime, homicides and all index crime than most of the six heaviest enforcing counties."
Filed: August 29, 1999, Bakersfield Californian Three-strikes law
hinders crime stoppage
Three-strikes for non-violence creates more problems than it solves. It causes families struck-out by this law to have a negative attitude toward the criminal justice system.
The FBI reported that between 1996 and 1997, Bakersfield crime increased by 2 percent, where it is to have decreased nationally.
Local aggressive prosecution by the district attorney is known globally to have crossed the line, creating unfair justice in their eagerness to prosecute.
Minorities and people of color are more likely to be mistreated and abused by the courts under this law.
The high cost to taxpayers, once they find out what's happening, will see that $700,000 to $1 million will eventually bankrupt the state. That's what it takes to keep a three-striker in prison.
Advocates of the three-strikes law for non-violence are in denial of the "creative destruction" done by this law to thousands of families traumatized before the sentencing experience and after the sentencing that leaves them confused and psychologically damaged.
No studies have been reported on how badly this affects children, fathers, mothers, grandparents caught in this net of "creative-destruction." Are they victims or just casualties of this war of crime?
JESSE M. BOYAR
Sentencing guidelines prior to the
three-strikes law, had in force the proportional sentences to be handed
down for a specific crime, with more serious consequences for repeat offenses.
These guidelines took into account the seriousness of the offense, the
effect on the victim and any priors.
Burglary, for example, carried a two-, four- or six-year prison term. A five-year enhancement could be given for each prior making a four-year sentence for the second offense nine years, and the third offense 16 years.
Murder carries a life sentence or
death penalty on the first offense. This is why recent statistics show
only 1 to 3 percent of three-strikers are in for murder.
It seems to me the three-strikes
law is unnecessary in light of this. This law was presented to the public
by invoking fear and outrage over the shocking realization that Polly Klaas'
murderer was a violent repeat offender. We were told we needed this law
to protect our society from these predators of innocent children.
Who would disagree that this at
least is true? Reality is, that murder is punishable by life in prison
or death regardless of the three-strikes law. I'm sure most would agree
these crimes should be punished more severely.
The problem is that the three-strikes
law has created an imbalance in our justice system. The judicial process
has been compromised by taking away the judge's power to exercise discretion;
taking into account the unique circumstance of each case. This should concern
The prosecutor now has more power
over the outcome of a case than the judge. We cannot have fairness if the
prosecution has the ability to prosecute a case and greater authority in
deciding how a case is settled. This is not justice. This violates our
basic rights and everyone should be concerned. If we allow this imbalance
to continue we have lost sight of what sets America apart from other countries.
Of course we need to have laws that
protect us and our possessions. Nobody is disputing that. But all crimes
are not equal and sentencing should reflect that. To give a person in possession
of cocaine the same sentence as a burglar, or a burglar the same sentence
as a murderer is not justice.
As a Christian I am in favor of
restorative justice. As a citizen of this country, I feel the three-strikes
law is a serious step backwards for our judicial system.
We need to take another look at the law. Senate Bill 873 introduced by Sen. John Vasconcellos would require a study of the costs and effectiveness of the law. Write to your senators and let them know you support this bill.
Prisons are bulging with non-violent offenders (JoAnne Jacobs, 3-29-99). A
first offence of kidnapping gets 12 months in jail. A theft with priors
gets 25-life. This makes no sense. Salinas Valley State Prison has
prepared a dorm of bunkbeds three tiers high to house the inmate population. Talk about overcrowding. Our state budget devotes more money to incarceration than education. This has to stop. Let the punishment fit the crime. Tom Hayden is sponsoring SB 79 to modify the 3 strikes law so that the 3rd strike must be serious, not just ANY felony. That's one way
to lower prison costs. Rehab the offender, don't lock him up for life.
The law should be changed
and I support him.
Prison is an unfavorable subject. People turn to deaf ears and close their eyes in hopes it will go away. It will not! We must face reality.
In regards to Gov. Davis upholding
the media access to inmates we MUST
not let this happen! Gov. Davis states it's for prisoners not to gain celebrity status. Bull pucky! The state doesn't want you to know about the politics, corruption, and abuse behind those walls.
Are we living in California or Nazi Germany? We are being told only
what the state wants us to
know. As taxpayers, we have the RIGHT to
know what's going on behind those walls. Wake up California. You live here, raise families here, pay taxes. Voice your opinion. Let Sacramento hear you loud and clear.
These men and women will eventually be living among us once again. With the abuse and corruption going on behind those walls, wouldn't you want to know how to deal with the angriness and bitterness they are suffering by living in animalistic conditions? Put yourself in their place.
Wouldn't you want to be heard by the outside world? Our attitude of "locking them up and throwing away the key, never hearing from them again" is barbaric. We MUST know what's going on!