Three Strikes Law
Recidivism is a tendency to relapse into a former pattern of behavior or a tendency to return to criminal behavior. Many studies have been conducted about criminals who begin with petty crimes (misdemeanors) that repeat the same crimes or graduate to serious crimes (felonies). The fear of repeat offenders and the increase of recidivism ignited the federal and state governments to seek harsher ways to protect citizens’ safety. Mike Reynolds a photographer whose daughter, Kimber, was murdered in1992 during a purse snatching incident introduced the Three Strikes Law in 1993. State legislators did consider and rejected this law because they believed the measures were harsh and costly. However, the Three Strikes Law received national attention from a second incident, the 1993 kidnapping of Polly Klaas from her Petaluma home. Polly was kidnapped and murdered by Richard Allen Davis who was on parole during this time. Because of this second incident, in January 1994 during President Clinton’s State of the Union Address, he requested for the enactment of a federal Three Strikes Law. In March 1994, California passed the Three Strikes bill. “Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy criticized the politics surrounding the enactment of the Three Strikes Law of California’s famous recidivist sentencing scheme as ‘sick’” (Romano, 2010). Although the Three Strikes Law centers on California, Washington was the first state to adopt the law while California followed with a broader version.
According to Dickey and Hollenhorst (1999), “23 states and the federal government adopted some form of “three strikes and you’re out” law intending to target repeat violent offenders (p.1). The law varies among states, but the intent is to “reduce judicial discretion by mandating severe prison sentences for third (and in some instances first and second) felony convictions” (Dickey and Hollenhorst, 1999). To formulate the law, it was decided that the most valuable approach to reduce violent crimes was through a mandated policy decision requiring identification through past behavior of those who demonstrated clear conduct to participate in violent criminal and whose conduct was not discouraged by the usual concepts of punishment. Reed (2004) stated, “The overall purpose of punishment within the criminal justice system is to prevent the commission of crimes to deter recidivism. For this objective to be successful, punishment must be effective in addressing the problems and solutions for the entire system, not just in individual cases” (p. 502). In reducing crimes, various methods and theories are taken into account. Some of these methods are additional police, additional courts, mandatory sentencing, and increased prosecutorial resources (Reed, 2004). Because the Three Strikes Law varies from state to state, this leads to the many problems it causes in the criminal justice system.
The purpose of the Three Strikes Law is to reduce serious...