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3 Strikes Law

How do you start a 3 Strikes Law term paper? Our expert writers suggest like this:

It sounds like a good idea: in order to cut down on crime by repeat offenders, a mandatory life sentence is imposed after a third violent felony conviction.  Three strikes and you’re out.  Paper Masters will write a custom 3 strikes law research paper on how the baseball catch phrase was designed to appeal to voters and put fear into career criminals, and thirty-five states have adopted some form of this law and supporters hope it becomes a part of Americas prison system.  The state of California, in the aftermath of the murder of Polly Klaas, enlarged the scope of the law by opening up the mandatory life sentence to any felony.

The following is an excellent outline for a three strikes law research paper:

  1. Introduction
  2. California Example
      1. Appeals
      2. Crime Does Not Pay
  3. Counter-Criticisms
      1.  Prison Over-crowding
        1. Remove Criminals from Society
        2. Create more jobs
      2. Guaranteed Conviction
        1. Flexibility and Objectivity
        2. Fewer Guilty Pleas
        3. Judge looses discretionary ability
        4. Too Harsh of sentencing
        5. Back-log to criminal court system
  4. Conclusion

The proposition 184 was established in 1994 by California Secretary of State, Bill Jones.  The initiative was to reduce crime in California and to take a tougher stance on repeat felons.  Having been known for a high rate of crime in comparison to the nation, California citizens decided to vote in proposition 184 in order to eradicate career criminals from their neighborhoods.  In fact, the name explains the amount of times the repeat felon can commit a felony before they are sent to prison for 25 years to life.  It became the “three strikes you’re out” law in March of 1994. According to the Justice Policy Institute study, the state of Washington was the first to adopt the law thereafter. Since then, “Bills similar to three strikes are under active consideration in more than 30 other states.” California and Washington remain the only two documented states that enforce the ‘3-Strikes’ law.  The primary source of notoriety for this law is from opponents in California.  I will present arguments in support of this law and highlight positive attributes.  In addition, I will present some common arguments against this law and show why they are invalid.


Why the 3 Strikes Law is Good for the Nations

3 Strikes Law

According to the executive director of the California District Attorney’s Association, “three-strikes has been the most profound change ever in the criminal-justice laws of California”. As a pioneer in laws of this kind, it is bound to undergo an adjustment period. There are many who have been complacent and lenient with repeat offenders.  California is known to be a liberal state that opposes the death penalty so this should be a welcomed alternative.  Because this is still a relatively new law that has undergone a lot of appeals, the impact of it is still being measured. One thing is that is certain, it sends out a message to criminals and would be criminals alike that crime no longer pays.  Their numerous attempts to appeal convictions show that they are being affected by this law and that some do not want to go to prison.  They are no longer being given free room and board for a few years and then released (not having served their full term) just to go out and demonstrate that they have learned little if anything from their experience.

The 3 Strikes Law research paper will discuss the beginning of how California voters overwhelmingly passed the 3-Strikes law in 1994, by a 72 to 28 percent margin, and the state subsequently saw a drop in violent crime rates over the next few years.  The overwhelming volume of statistics for the pros and cons of the 3-Strikes law can be made to support anyone’s argument, but the clear fact remains that having the law in place keeps criminals in jail.

Counter-Arguments Against The Three Strikes Law

The three strikes law answers the concern of those who have been concerned about crime rates in this country.  In California alone, by January 1996, there were 15,839 second and third-strike offenders sent to state prison. That may not be a reflection of lower crime but, it is definitely a reflection of law enforcement. There is one thing to have a lower crime rate but there are countless crimes that go unreported or without being prosecuted so the seeming increase in crime is a reflection of the attempt to catch more repeat felons.  Ultimately, making the streets safer, whether it be petty theft, murder or drug possession takes control from the criminals and gives it back to the people who want to live safe lives.  While there is an increase in prisoners, there is an increase in the need for young adults to join law enforcement. It is time we stop treating fighting crime like a game. This time, three strikes and the repeat offender is out.

One of the major complaints that have been expressed about this law is the fact that the prisons have become and will continue to be over crowded.  According to Legislative Analysts, “all space to house inmates will be exhausted by mid-1998”. Until this law was passed, everyone seemed to complain about the crime levels in their respective cities and states.  If you get stricter with law enforcement, that will yield more prisoners in prison and the need for more to be built and more law enforcement officers.

However, the way things have been handled in the past have not worked so, reform was needed. This is positive for several reasons; first, removing criminals from the street is worth the money that it will cost to house them. Besides, the Republicans’ Contract with America proposed to give $10.5 billion to states to help build prisons for the rising number of felons sentenced under the new laws.

Second, the need for more prisons and law enforcers will create more jobs. This overwhelming need in law enforcement will prompt the recruitment of young people who might otherwise partake in criminal behavior, themselves. Even the researchers of RAND who largely oppose this law believe that, “California’s three-strikes law will take a big bite out of crime…”. The purpose of more law enforcement is two-fold. First, with each election year, there have been promises to increase law enforcement officers and funding. This shows that there needs to be a focus on the prison system as well as in the streets. The idea to include more law enforcement was already in the works.

Another major criticism is that prosecutors no longer have to work for their convictions and that they are now, handed a guaranteed conviction. In addition, some believe that it takes the discretion out of the hands of judges. That is false for two reasons. First, there is flexibility granted in the judges ruling which keeps the case objective. There are various levels of enforcement. Los Angeles County is known to have more convictions using this law, per year than the more moderate, San Francisco. Second, “fewer offenders are pleading guilty” as a result of not wanting to serve the new prison terms that a majority of the cases are going to trial. This prevents the insinuation that convictions are unfairly biased against minorities as well as, gives the jury an opportunity to hear any evidence in the case that might sway their decision either way. This benefits all involved and the prosecutor has to try the case so, there is no easy win for him or her. 

In terms of judges losing their discretionary abilities, that is also not always the case. They have the opportunity to determine whether the felon gets the minimum or maximum sentencing which is what they are already accustomed to doing. 

The third reason for opposition comes from the findings of the American Civil Liberties Union. They believe that the “3-Strikes” laws could lead to an increase in violence. Initially, there might appear to be an increase in crime but, that is merely the result of law enforcement aggressively going after criminals. Like any new law, there are adjustments that need to be made that would make it function more smoothly but, after the initial sweep of repeat felons, I believe the crime rate will plummet because criminals will be in prison or deterred from their lives of crime. There have been comparisons to states, such as New York that do not have this law or anything similar. They claim that there is a decrease in crime across the nation in states that do not have this law. There is actually a decrease in criminals being caught.  It is unlikely that the amount of repeat felons is restricted to particular states or regions, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Fourth, some who oppose this law have taken a few felony convictions that they thought were too harsh and made those representative of the entire law. According to RAND research findings, “More often than not, the analysis showed that, the third strike will accrue for a minor felony.” Opponents believe that since quite a few of the 3rd strikes are not violent crimes, they should be overlooked. There have been cases involving the ‘3rd Strike” being petty theft and other convictions perceived to be minor. You may want to disagree with this reasoning for two reasons.  First, a felony is a felony whether it is violent or not. Once the public receives a proposal for cracking down on repeat felons and it is voted into law by the majority, it is not time to try and dissect each scenario to decide whether or not they want to be sending a person to prison for that particular crime. In actuality, they are sending the person to prison for the entire package. This has been a source of controversy also which is the claim that trying the criminal for the ‘3-Strikes’ law means that they are being retried for the other two past felonies. If this were the case, this would technically be considered a ‘double-jeopardy’. This is against the law. However, without going through the details of the first two crimes, they must be considered in order to establish a pattern. Second, this law was created for people who have a difficult time leading lives without committing crime.  By the time a person achieves committing three felony crimes, they are practically asking to be sent to prison and not released for a long time. Their pattern suggests that there will be a fourth felony and possibly more. Law enforcement officials, such as Benjamin Carrillo, believes that by going to prison and staying there some of these felons, particularly those with drug-related convictions can receive much needed rehabilitation. Officer Carrillo says about the 3-Strikes law, “How many chances should be given? As it is, the state [California] already has two prisons devoted to drug rehab. Aside from these two prisons, each prison in the state also offers Narcotics Anonymous programs.”

The fifth criticism is that due to backlog in the criminal court system there will be, “more persons awaiting trial in county jail”. You may want to argue that this is still a positive point because the criminals are unable to commit anymore crimes while they are awaiting trial and they are not a ‘flight risk’. If a person is being prosecuted for their third felony, under this new law, they may become desperate and decide that it is better for them to flee and attempt to forego sentencing. Left on the loose, they are likely to commit more crime, possibly violent ones. This would be irresponsible for the criminal justice system to allow people who may be serving life terms to walk free (even if only for a short period of time) while they are awaiting trials. 

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