After 18 Years of “Three Strikes,” Are Californians Ready for a Change?

New America Media News Report, Rene Ciria-Cruz

After 18 Years of “Three Strikes,” Are Californians Ready for a Change?


Supporters of Proposition 36 are optimistic that changing attitudes toward prison reform, coupled with economic considerations, will have Californians voting in favor of tempering their state’s controversial repeat offender law, known as “Three Strikes and You’re Out,” in the upcoming November election.

“Popular support has always been high for reforming Three Strikes,” says Prop. 36 advocate Geri Silva, director and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes. “People realize that sending someone to prison for life for stealing a donut is absurd.”

Backers of Prop.36 had no trouble gathering the 504,760 signatures required by law to get their measure on the state ballot – about 800,000 people signed the petition — and a recent statewide survey conducted by Pepperdine University’s policy school shows 78.1 percent of likely voters supporting it.

The sense of urgency among voters to reform Three Strikes, suggests Silva, can be attributed to prison overcrowding and soaring state spending on incarceration in the midst of a historic budget crisis.

The political climate in California and public attitudes toward prison reform were very different in 1994 when the Three Strikes Initiative, Proposition 184, passed in a landslide with 72 percent of the popular vote. The initiative benefited in part from public fear and anger over the highly publicized kidnapping, rape and murder of 12 year-old Polly Klaas the previous year.

Proposition 184 imposed a mandatory 25 years to life prison sentence for anyone in the state convicted of a third felony, including non-violent offenses like drug possession and theft.

Today, twenty-six other states have similar sentencing laws on the books, but California’s Three Strikes law is widely considered one of the most severe.

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5 thoughts on “After 18 Years of “Three Strikes,” Are Californians Ready for a Change?

  1. Hello, The tactic to defeat Prop 36 the closer we get the Nov. 6 on be saturate the public with fear that 1,000’s of convicts are being released. Crime will skyrocket, you won’t be safe don’t change the law. Please do our state its justice and read the sample ballot you will receive and learn for yourself that amending the law only makes sense. I severed 13 years of 25 to life for forgery, before being resentenced 3 years ago. I am a productive member of society today. Please click on the link below. Thank you, Author and Freed Third Striker Kelly Turner


  2. I think you are misinformed…..scam?? swindle?? and doing a great disservice to reform! Serious & Violent felonies do not apply to this reform…also I see that your not aware of the Stanford Three Strikes project composed of many lawyers who have been fighting successfully on behalf of many strikers- many who have been released, due to these lawyers very hard work…..not someone attaching their name for fame or gain!!
    Everyone who ever questions whether or not they should vote Yes on Prop 36, to reform the CA 3-Strikes law, should view this compelling, short video with Kelly Turner, a former 3-striker, who was released before her sentence was up.


  3. No on 36

    It is a scam, fraud, swindle. For instance, Prop. 36 would not release Santos Reyes early from his 26-year to life sentence for cheating on a driving test. However, if I missed something and this Prop. offers a release to Reyes, then I will end my quiet little protest.

    The main money source ($1 million, last I checked) for this proposition comes from a Stanford Law professor. It is my opinion that he is trying to attach his name to “Three Strikes” for future political aspirations. If you look carefully at Prop 36 it throws some 3 strikers under the bus, just to get a amended 3 strikes pass the voters. Shameful! If you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all.

    I am a prison reform activist who has decided to remain homeless until we get real prison reform. By that, I mean effort towards more rehabilitation services on the outside as well as a better effort to release those who do not belong behind bars.


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