Research Question: What is the “Three Strikes Law” and how do states use it as a sentencing guideline?
Repeat offenders are perhaps the most difficult criminal offenders for state and
local criminal justice systems to manage. These offenders are considered unresponsive to
incarceration as a means of behavior modification and are not deterred by serving time in
prison. For this reason, longer sentences for this group of offenders have a strong appeal
to police makers and the public. Supporters of proposition 184 argued that imposing
lengthy sentences on repeat offenders would reduce crime in two ways (Sorensen, 2002).
First, extended sentences would remove repeat felons from society for longer periods of
time, therefore restricting their ability to commit additional crimes. Second, the treat of
such long sentences would discourage some offenders from committing new crimes.
An identical legislative version of the Proposition 184, was introduced in the
Assembly in March 1994 by Assembly member Bill Jones. The law quickly passed the
legislature and Governor Pete Wilson signed it into law on March 8, 1994. When
Proposition 184 passed in November 1994, its status as a voter approved measure gave it
special protection from legislative revision. Although challenged in the courts,
Proposition 184's constitutionality was affirmed in two March 2003 U.S. Supreme Court
decisions, Lockyer v. Andrade and Ewing v. California (Johnson, 2005). The two cases
involved repeat offenders who were sentenced to prison terms of 25 years and longer
after stealing golf clubs and videotapes.
Criticism of Proposition 184 has centered on its cost. Large increases in the prison
population and prison expenditures followed the law's implementation. By September
1999 almost 50,000 inmates were imprisoned as second and third strikers, according to a
report from the Legislative Analyst. From 1983 to 2004 the prison system budget...