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Three Strikes and You're Out Law: A Preliminary Assessment

NCJ Number
Date Published
12 pages
This report reviews the California "Three Strikes and You're Out" criminal sentencing measure, assesses its implications, and identifies implementation issues.
This preliminary assessment is based on data collected from local prosecutors, public defenders and defense counsels, county jails, the California Board of Corrections, judges and trial court administrators, the Department of Corrections, and the State Judicial Council. The impact of the law has been felt primarily in the counties; specific effects include a dramatic increase in prosecutions, a reduction in guilty pleas entered by defendants, a significant increase in jury trials, and an increase in persons awaiting trial in county jails. There has been less of an immediate impact on State prison population figures than expected. The criminal justice system has responded to the effects of the law by pushing less serious cases out of the courts, releasing convicted offenders from jail before completion of their sentence, increasing jail security, and augmenting criminal justice agency budgets. In addition, some judges, juries, and victims are responding to the law in ways that reduce its effects, i.e., by not convicting offenders for relatively minor felonies or by refusing to testify at trial. It is too early yet to assess the impact of the law on crime rates.