On the night of October 1, 1993, in a small suburb of Northern California, Polly Klaas, a twelve year old resident of the town was kidnapped from her home where she was having a slumber party with her two best friends. About two months later, clues linking habitual offender Richard Allen Davis to the crime surfaced and he was brought in. Davis confessed to the kidnapping and murder of the young girl and his entire criminal history came pouring out. Davis had been previously convicted for robbery, burglary, kidnapping and assault, and had a lengthy record of violence against females. There are also doubts about his involvement in what was ruled out to be a suicide and he had once escaped from a psychiatric hospital. When this information was released, the nation was in an outrage. How was this man free to walk the streets? And what can we do so that this can never happen again? This public cry for action paved the way for the creation of Proposition 184, the law commonly known as "Three Strikes and You're Out!"
The three strikes legislation has been in effect since 1994, and ultimately sentences repeat offenders to twenty-five years to life in prison on their third felony. The law is very arbitrary, and while it has taken many criminals off the streets and filled up our prisons, many argue that the law has done more damage than good. The purpose of this essay is to explore the history of this law, how it has impacted our state since it was passed and what the future holds for this law.
Many people don't know that the idea of Three Strikes law in California had been around before the Polly Klaas murder. Many states had implemented stricter sentencing guidelines for habitual offenders in the past, and in California, judges were able to use their discretion in sentencing these individuals. The turning point in California really came when a Fresno photographer named Mike Reynolds, whose own daughter had been shot and killed by an ex-convict in the midst of a purse snatch, began a campaign to incarcerate repeat offenders to longer terms, with some being given mandatory life sentences. The campaign was backed by Fresno assemblymen Bill Jones and Jim Costa, but the bill died before an Assembly Public Safety Committee. Not willing to give up, Reynolds converted the bill into an initiative and collected signatures to put it on the ballot. The measure failed to attract very much attention until the kidnap and murder of Polly Klaas, which set into motion a political outburst of "get tough on crime" attitudes. Reynolds's bill was supported by Congressman Michael Huffington of Santa Barbara and also received financial support and publicity through the Polly Klaas Foundation. There were other bills written up that were very similar to this, including one written by Assemblyman Richard Rainey of Walnut Creek, which applied only to violent offenders and was believed by many to be a better...