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It's Not the Old Ball Game: Three Strikes and the Courtroom Workgroup

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 17 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2000 Pages: 185-203
John C. Harris; Paul Jesilow
Date Published
March 2000
19 pages
This paper examines the influence and effects of California’s “Three Strikes” legislation.
In 1994 California enacted legislation commonly known as “Three Strikes.” According to the conventional wisdom concerning the effect of “get tough” sentencing enhancements, the most draconian provisions are undermined by prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys, who resist the changes in the “normal” way of doing business. This article uses data collected as part of a larger project undertaken by the Administrative Office of the Courts, California Judicial Council, to assess the impact of the “three strikes” law on the superior courts of the State. The data were derived from interviews and surveys of courtroom members, and finds that Three Strikes has significantly disrupted the efficiency of the workgroup and has made the prediction of case outcomes difficult. The courtroom workgroup has already begun to mediate and even nullify some provisions. The most consistent change recommended for the current law is to limit a third-strike charge to individuals whose current offense is a serious or violent felony. Notes, tables, references, cases cited


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