How insane is the California Three Strikes law?
In California, if you have two prior felony convictions, a third felony can land you in prison for multiple decades, even life with no parole. This includes non-violent felonies. Plus crimes can be charged as felonies that most of us wouldn’t even consider to be felonies. Even worse, judges have no discretion. They are legally obligated to give such sentences, and some have complained bitterly about this.
FACTS (Families to Amend California Three Strikes) is working to change this and hopes to have a proposition on the ballot in 2004 making 3-Strikes for violent felonies only.
So, how insane is 3-Strikes? This insane. FACTS has documented 150 cases of people sentenced to decades in prison for such nefarious deeds as stealing a spare tire or possession of a stolen bicycle.
Two examples from the FACTS website: (Be aware that under 3-Strikes, you must serve at least the full minimum sentence. Also, inmates listed on the FACTS website have given their permission to be listed)
Crime: Stealing a portable vacuum from a patio
Sentence: 35 years to life
First burglary: walked in garage with garge door open, chased out and nothing stolen. Second burglary was DUI, broke a window, but never entered or stole anything. Third burglary was for stealing a portable vacuum from a patio. No violent record, no gun charges.
Crime: Possession of a stolen bicycle
Sentence: 25 years to life.
Current conviction was for buying a stolen bicycle. Claims inadequate counsel for trial. News article describes problems Attorney had with drugs and other cases. Supreme Court later suspended the attorney from practice for a year.
Quotes: “I am in Soledad State Prison serving a 25 years to life for receiving stolen property: buying a stolen bicycle under the Three-Strikes-Law. My prior serous felony convictions were non-violent burglary offenses from the early 1980’s. I have no violence in my background. The most recent offenses were less serious property theft offenses.”
They are doing many many years for relatively minor, non-violent crimes.
Did I mention most of those doing three strikes time are Black/Latino and poor? Or had you already guessed that?
This grotesquely vindictive law needs to be amended. FACTS, a true grassroots organization, is raising money to fund their proposition drive. Help out if you can.