Majority of third-strike inmates are addicts, records show

Marisa Lagos and Ryan Gabrielson

Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle: Inmate counselor Vincent Russo talks about healthy relationships at an Addiction Recovery Counseling meeting at San Quentin State Prison in August.


Convicts imprisoned under California’s three strikes law are no more inclined to high-risk “criminal thinking” than other inmates, but are far more likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, according to data from the state prisons department.

The psychological, substance abuse and education profiles of thousands of inmates – obtained and analyzed by California Watch and the San Francisco Chronicle – reveal that the state imposes especially lengthy sentences on felons with substance abuse problems who have not necessarily committed violent offenses.

But according to their profiles, these inmates would pose no more a threat to public safety than a non-three-strikes inmate.

The never-before-released data could play an important role for critics and supporters of California’s three strike’s law, amid a dramatic year for criminal justice reform. Thousands of inmates are being transferred to county jails under a realignment plan championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, and voters are being asked to alter the state’s three strikes initiative with a ballot measure in November.

The act of judging a person’s criminal proclivity is steeped in a long and controversial history of guesswork and junk science. But modern social scientists and criminologists say California’s prisoner surveys ranking “criminal thinking” – which have been verified through rigorous studies of recidivism rates – are reliable tools to gauge risk factors and psychological makeups.

The data shows that about one-third of all prisoners – including second- and third-strikers – need cognitive therapy to deal with their criminal tendencies, the impulse that drives them to break the law. But the need for substance abuse rehabilitation is overwhelming among inmates serving two- or three-strike sentences.

Some prison reformers say the profiles show a vast need for additional money and focus on drug treatment programs. But for supporters of the state’s three strikes law, a person’s motivation for committing a crime is far less important that taking habitual criminals off the street for a long time.

Continue Reading @ California Watch



5 thoughts on “Majority of third-strike inmates are addicts, records show

  1. I agree with Ray’s mom. When the house and the school system breaks down, so does the community. The 3 strike law in California was propagated over a sex crime and the politicians and prison union used it to target petty criminals ( drug addicts and poverty equals desperation )


  2. If law enforcement and the justice system worked as it should – there should be no third strike…with proper intervention early on – like first grade or before and caring homes, the prison population would be greatly reduced. but, we must restore the family and respect for our parents – then self respect – then prisons would not be needed…other than in extreme ocasions


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