California Three Strikes Reform Act Submits Petitions to Qualify for November Ballot
The Reform Act will restore voters’ original intent to keep dangerous criminals behind bars, make the punishment fit the crime, and save $100 million every year.
Led by a broad bipartisan coalition of law enforcement leaders, civil rights organizations and taxpayer advocates, supporters of the Three Strikes Reform Act have submitted signed petitions to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. The Reform Act will restore voters’ original intent to keep dangerous criminals behind bars, make the punishment fit the crime, and save $100 million every year.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley both announced their strong support of the Reform Act. Democratic DA Gascon and Republican DA Cooley join a diverse group of supporters ranging from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist.
Written by Stanford Law Professors, the Three Strikes Reform Act is modeled after Senate Bill 1642, which was drafted by Los Angeles District Attorney Cooley in 2006, and the Three Strikes sentencing policy that District Attorney Cooley successfully implemented in Los Angeles County almost twelve years ago.
“The Three Strikes Reform Act is right for California,” said District Attorney Cooley. “It will ensure that the punishment fits the crime. Dangerous recidivist criminals will remain behind bars for life, and our overflowing prisons will not be clogged with inmates who pose no risk to public safety.”
San Francisco’s District Attorney stressed his perspective from decades in law enforcement. “I have been in law enforcement for over thirty years and I know that spending more money on prisons doesn’t solve the bigger issue of reducing crime,” said District Attorney Gascon. “The Three Strikes Reform Act saves California taxpayers money and restores the original intent of the law by focusing on truly dangerous criminals.”
In another sign of the breadth and depth of support for the reform, petitions signed by more than 830,000 voters – including people in all 58 California counties – were submitted to local election officials. The 830,000 signatures easily surpass the 504,760 signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. The Secretary of State and county election boards will now count and verify the signatures.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Jeffrey Robinson noted that the reform will restore voters’ original intent to be fair, just, tough and smart. “The Three Strikes Reform Act helps restore fairness and justice to the Three Strikes law,” said Robinson. “As the voters originally intended, it reserves the harshest sentences for those convicted of serious or violent crimes. It is neither fair nor smart to waste precious resources sending people to prison for life for shoplifting.”
Renowned taxpayer advocate Grover Norquist pointed out that objective analysis shows the reform will save $100 million every year. “The Three Strikes Reform Act is tough on crime without being tough on taxpayers,” said Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. “It will put a stop to needlessly wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayers’ hard-earned money, while protecting people from violent crime.”
About the Three Strikes Reform Act
The Reform Act will close a loophole in the Three Strikes law so that it reflects voters’ original intent to put violent and dangerous criminals behind bars forever. In the current system, defendants can receive life sentences for almost any crime. People have been sentenced to life in prison for shoplifting a pair of socks or stealing bread. Under the Reform Act, repeat criminals will get life in prison for serious or violent third strike crimes, and double the ordinary sentence if the third strike is not serious or violent, bringing California law in line with other states’ repeat offender policies.
Truly dangerous criminals will receive no benefit whatsoever from the Reform Act. Any defendant who has ever been convicted of an extremely violent crime – such as rape, murder, or child molestation – will receive a life sentence no matter how minor their third strike crime.
Under the Reform Act, prisoners currently serving life sentences for non-serious, non-violent third strikes could have their life sentences reduced to a term of years no less than double an ordinary sentence if a judge determines that there is no unreasonable risk to public safety. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered California’s overflowing prisons to release tens of thousands of inmates, the Reform Act will help ensure that there is room in our prisons for truly dangerous criminals.
The California State Auditor projects the state will pay at least $4.8 billion to house and pay health care costs for the currently contingent of non-violent three strikes inmates. The state also found that non-violent three strikes inmates are the least likely to commit new crimes if released; they are also the biggest financial strain on the prison because of their age and increasing health care costs.
The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office calculated that the Reform Act could save over $100 million every year to fund schools, prevent crime, and decrease the need for tax increases by reducing the costs of incarcerating and providing health care for aging non-violent inmates.
A Field Poll showed voters strongly support fixing the Three Strikes Law.
More information, including the full text of the Initiative, is available at www.FixThreeStrikes.org