California Proposition 36, Changes in the "Three Strikes" Law (2012)
If approved, the proposal will modify elements of California's "Three Strikes" Law, approved by the state's voters in 1994. In 2004, voters rejected Proposition 66, which like the 2012 measure was an attempt to change some aspects of the original "Three Strikes" Law.
The 2012 proposal, specifically, will if enacted:
- Revise the three strikes law to impose life sentence only when the new felony conviction is "serious or violent".
- Authorize re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if their third strike conviction was not serious or violent and if the judge determines that the re-sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.
- Continue to impose a life sentence penalty if the third strike conviction was for "certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession".
- Maintain the life sentence penalty for felons with "non-serious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation."
If the 2012 proposal is approved by voters, approximately 3,000 convicted felons who are currently serving life terms under the Three Strikes law, whose third strike conviction was for a nonviolent crime, will be able to petition the court for a new, reduced, sentence. Reducing the sentences of these current prisoners could result in saving the state somewhere between $150 to $200 million a year.
Altogether, about 8,800 prisoners are currently serving life terms in California prisons under the 1994 law.
24 states have a "Three Strikes"-type law.
- The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
- Dan Newman, who filed the language for the initiative. He says, "I think we will end up having a broad, bipartisan coalition this time. We will not allow this campaign to be pigeonholed, as past efforts [to change the law] have been. This will include law enforcement, Democrats, Republicans, civil right leaders and taxpayer advocates."
- Mike Romano, a Stanford University law professor who founded the "Three Strikes Project" in 2006. He says, "nonviolent third-strikers are the least likely to re-offend of any group in prison" and that offenders "will have to go before a judge and show they are not a danger to the community before their sentence can be reduced by one day".
- David Mills, a former investment banker who has pledged to support the initiative by donating funds sufficient to enable the collection of signatures to qualify it for the ballot.
- Geri Silva of "Families Against California's Three Strikes". Silva supports the 2012 initiative but believes it does not go far enough: "We're happy to have this initiative, but why should you get eight years for a petty theft. Hell no. We have got to stop compromising."
Arguments in favor
- "A life sentence for petty theft or drug possession is excessive."
- Stanford University professor David Mills has donated $603,000 through mid-February 2012.
- Peter Ackerman has donated $100,000.
- George Soros gave $500,000 to the initiative's campaign committee in February 2012.
- Mike Reynolds, who wrote the language for California's "Three Strikes" Law. He says, "Once someone has been convicted of two serious or violent offences, I suggest it's pretty clear what they are capable of. If this passes, we are likely to see property crimes going up all over the state, and in very short order."
- California saw a 37% drop in crime n the first four years after implementing "Three Strikes".
- "If criminals are on the street, especially repeat offenders, what are they going to be doing?"
- "While all states have seen drops [in crime], none have as much as in California."
- "Revises three strikes law to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent. Authorizes re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if third strike conviction was not serious or violent and judge determines sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety. Continues to impose life sentence penalty if third strike conviction was for certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession. Maintains life sentence penalty for felons with non-serious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation."
Summary of estimated fiscal impact:
(This is a summary of the initiative's estimated "fiscal impact on state and local government" prepared by the California Legislative Analyst's Office and the Director of Finance.)
- "State savings related to prison and parole operations that potentially range in the high tens of millions of dollars annually in the short run, possibly exceeding $100 million annually in the long run. Increased state and county costs in the millions to low tens of millions of dollars annually in the first few years, likely declining substantially in future years, for state court activities and county jail, community supervision, and court-related activities."
Path to the ballot
- See also: California signature requirements
- Dan Newman submitted a letter requesting a ballot title on October 21, 2011.
- The ballot title and ballot summary were issued by the Attorney General of California's office on December 15, 2011.
- 504,760 valid signatures are required for qualification purposes.
- The 150-day circulation deadline for #11-0057 is May 14, 2012.
- Sponsors submitted over 830,000 signatures to county election officials in late April.
- Letter requesting a ballot title for Initiative 11-0057
- Fix Three Strikes, website of the initiative's sponsors
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Contra Costa Times, "Three-strikes law alterations likely to qualify for November ballot", April 30, 2012
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 89.3 KPCC, "New battle over 3 Strikes law looms", December 16, 2011
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 San Francisco Chronicle, "'3 strikes': Proposed law tries to restore intent", November 28, 2011
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Stanford Daily, "Three Strikes Project drafts ballot initiative", November 29, 2011
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Hawaii's News Daily, "Soros Gives Big Bucks for California Three Strikes Reform Measure", January 17, 2012
- ↑ Los Angeles Times, "Plan to change three-strikes law moves toward November ballot", January 3, 2012