Sentencing/Post Conviction

State law easing '3-strikes' sentencing is working, drafters say

Ten months after California voters approved Proposition 36, the ballot measure is having its intended effect, drafters say.

By exempting lesser offenders from life sentences, the voter-approved initiative is reducing unnecessary prison sentences without endangering the public, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Proposition 36, passed by voters last November, amended California’s so-called three-strikes law, which requires a sentence of 25 years to life, for anyone with a record of two serious or violent felonies who is convicted of a third felony. Proposition 36 eliminated that requirement for repeat offenders whose third offense was neither serious or violent.

Under Proposition 36, prisoners serving 25-years-to-life terms for nonserious or nonviolent third offenses can also seek to have their sentences reduced. However, a judge must decide, based on the inmate’s record and conduct, that he or she represents no unreasonable threat to the public.

Of the 1,000 inmates released so far under Prop. 36, fewer than 2 percent have been charged with new crimes, lawyers for Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Center and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which drafted the ballot measure, said at a press conference Monday. And most of those have been misdemeanors and other relatively minor offenses.

That’s in sharp contrast with other newly released inmates in California, 16 percent of whom have been charged with new crimes within 90 days of their release, the lawyers said.

David Mills, a Stanford law professor who founded the Three Strikes Center, said the figures showed that the opponents of Proposition 36, who “predicted blood in the streets” if the measure passed, were wrong. “Millions of dollars have been saved and many lives changed, hopefully for the better,” by the law’s passage, he said.

Prior coverage: “3-strike sentences cut for 5 inmates, judge reconsiders life terms of more than 1,000 others”

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