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Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes Law

NCJ Number
Douglas W. Kieso
Date Published
294 pages
After reviewing the history, rationale, implementation, and effects of California's "Three Strikes" law, this book offers recommendations based on lessons learned from its impact.
The law is called the "Three Strikes" law, although this term is not used in the law itself, because it provides that upon being convicted of a third felony of any type, the sentence must be a minimum of 25 years in prison for the third offense and can be a maximum of life in prison. A review of how the law has been used in various California counties shows how minor felonies and even misdemeanors elevated to felonies have been brought under the "Three Strikes" law, which was initially intended to apply only to offenders who habitually commit violent and otherwise serious offenses. Recommendations for remedying this unintended effect of the law include its abolition or its amendment, with the changes being retroactive to offenders already sentenced under the statute. The author advises that the simplest way to change the law is to amend it’s wording so that it applies only to clearly defined violent and serious offenses. Another possible change would be to limit the time period within which the three offenses occur, such as the previous 10 or 15 years. In reviewing the history of the influences that led to the law's enactment, attention is given to the impacts of the deaths of Kimber Reynolds in 1992 and Polly Klaas in 1993. Kimber's father, Mike Reynolds, was particularly influential in pushing for the content of the bill that was eventually enacted. The review of the history of the law also focuses on social and political events that contributed to the law's harsh penalties. Chapter tables, 470 references and a subject index