California’s Proposition 184: Three Strikes and You’re Out
Last year in California voters approved a controversial ballot
initiative. Proposition 184, also known as the three strikes and you’re out
offenders, upon committing their third felony offense, will be sentenced to a
passed by a landslide, with 76% of the voters in favor of it. The State Senate
The three strikes initiative stemmed from the killing of Polly Klass by Richard
approval. Many voters did not realize that this bill could put potentially
incarcerate people for ludicrous amounts after the commission of a minor
offense. Even more voters did not realize the cost of implementing such a bill.
Now that this new legislation has been in effect for a year and the
tremendous negative effects it have become obvious we must repeal it.
One of the issues that must be considered when imposing mandatory
it costs $20,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate under normal
state college for two or three years. According to Beth Carter the three
strikes law has placed 1,300 people in prison for a third strike offense and
14,000 people in prison on a second strike offense(1). The current recidivism
rate in California is 70%(2), which means that out of those 14,000 people that
almost 10,000 will be back in prison for a third strike. To imprison those
1,300 third strike offenders for the mandatory minimum of twenty-five years
will cost the state of California $812,500,000. To support these inmates for
longer periods of time we will have to increase the amount of money going to
our prison system. This means that either spending in other areas will be cut
or an increase of taxes. Neither of which is highly favored by voters. On a
since 1987(Cost 2). The money that is being spent incarcerating these people
can be more well spent in other areas. The money can be spent on crime
prevention and rehabilitation, rather than retribution. Before the three
strikes law was enacted it had been estimated that to keep up with the growing
prison population on a national level that it was necessary to spend
$100,000,000 per week on our prison system(Ogutu). Now that we will be having
more and more criminals behind bars we shall have to spend even more money
building and keeping up our overcrowded prisons. Of these people that
taxpayers are paying to imprison Mauer suggests that as many as 80% will be
non-violent offenders. So far 80% of the second and third strike offenses have
only been only 53 people with second and third strike convictions for rape,
murder, and kidnapping(Carter 1). This law’s lack of effectiveness clearly
does not warrant its huge price.
The other aspect to consider in the implementation of the three strikes
legislation is its effect on non-violent offenders. These are the people
hardest hit by this law. It is difficult see how society can justify sending a
drug addict to prison for 25 years at a cost of $20,000 per year when the money
could be used to fund drug rehabilitation centers and alternative programs for
our youth. Most drug users are not in need prison, they are in need of help
for their addictions. If a fraction of the money it would cost to imprison them
is put toward drug rehabilitation programs it would save the state money, while
missed the mark by a long shot. Some offenders have been convicted for a third
was convicted for his third strike after stealing a wallet that had $100
dollars in it. His previous offenses had all been non-violent, yet he was
convicted under our three strikes law(Franklin 26). This is not an isolated
convicted under this legislation for non-violent offenses(26). These types of
cases just illustrate how the three strikes legislation is targeting non-
violent offenders, as opposed to its goal of targeting violent criminals.
After one year in effect it is easy to see what our three-strikes
legislation has done. It has become easy to picture the long term effects of
such broad legislation on our society. Although this law was enacted by the
wanted a law that would put dangerous repeat offenders behind bars for life.
Instead we are now putting an increasingly large number of non-violent
offenders behind bars for extended periods of time. It would be easy to justify
the cost of removing a violent menace from our society, but justifying the cost
of imprisoning people who are of no threat to anyone but themselves is
difficult. We must look closely at what this legislation has done so far. It
has placed many more non-violent offenders in prison than violent offenders.
The legislation stands to cost the state millions of dollars per year to
incarcerate people of longer prison terms. Clearly the three-strikes law has
not served its intended purpose it must be repealed.
Works Cited California. California Penal Code.
Carter, Beth. “The Impact of `Three Strikes and You’re Out’ Laws: What Have We
The Cost of Mandatory Minimums. Pamphlet. Families Against Mandatory Minimums,
Mauer, Marc. “Three Strikes Policy is Just a Quick-fix Solution.” Corrections
July 1996: 23.
13 Nov. 1996.