Stanford Three Strikes Project


Three Strikes Basics

California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” Law was passed by both the California state legislature and the people of California through a voter initiative in 1994. California was one of the first states to pass such a sentencing scheme, which is now viewed as the harshest (non-capital) sentencing law in the United States. According to official ballot materials promoting the law, the Three Strikes scheme was intended to “keep murders, rapists, and child molesters behind bars, where they belong.” However, today, more than half of inmates sentenced under the law are serving sentences for nonviolent crime. The Three Strikes Project exclusively represents these individuals.

The main feature of the Three Strikes law is the imposition of a life sentence for any felony conviction, no matter how minor, if the defendant has two prior “serious” felony convictions. “Serious” felonies are defined by the California Penal Code and range from murder and rape to non-confrontational residential burglary and purse-snatching. A third strike offense can be any felony, including simple drug possession or petty theft. (The Three Strikes law also has a “second strike” provision, which doubles the sentence for any felony conviction if the defendant has one prior serious felony conviction.)

The law has had an undeniable effect on California’s prison system. In total, over 25 percent of California’s entire prison population are serving enhanced sentences under the Three Strikes law. Statistics from the California Department of Corrections demonstrates that the law disproportionately affects minority populations. Over 45 percent of inmates serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law are African American. California’s State Auditor estimates that the Three Strikes law adds over $19 billion to the state’s prison budget. California’s non-partisan has concluded that there is no evidence that the law contributed to California’s decreasing crime rate.

The Project has litigated various aspects of the administration of the Three Strikes law in state and federal court. Among other claims, the Project has successfully argued that our clients were denied effective representation of counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment; and that our clients’ sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.


2 thoughts on “Stanford Three Strikes Project

  1. I was a prosecutor in California and I have taken many a plea under 3k. I am a former prosecutor because I finally woke up and realized that I could not continue to “just follow orders” and prosecute anti-drug and anti-gun laws. Despite “going soft” as my former co-workers would say, I support 3k laws.

    First, 3k would not be necessary if we executed certain felons as God commands. He knows what many pretend to not know: kidnappers, rapists, murders, and such cannot be allowed to live as they will continue to commit crime. No one accidently commits capital crimes. To commit such crimes shows their conscience has been seared and there is no hope for their “rehabilitation.”

    Second, 3k is the best option for keeping criminals away from the public. If you manage to commit 2 robberies, or 1 gang shooting and 1 baseball bat beat down, or 1 rape and 1 shooting at an occupied dwelling, (any 2 of the “dirty 33”) you need to be locked up for a long time. But that doesn’t always happen. They get out and are given yet another chance. Unsurprisingly, they commit another felony. They can’t help it. So yes, lock them away for 25 to life even if the 3rd felony is “only” simple theft of $950 or more. Because: THEY WILL NEVER STOP BREAKING THE LAW.

    Next, I hate to break it to the fine folks at Stanford but most people arrested are minorities so yes, most 3kers will be minority. That is just a fact. However it is not a “genetic predisposition” or whatever the racists think. I’m convinced it is 100% environment. If you are raised in a broken, drug filled home, and all your friends glorify crime through music and other arts, the chance of you committing a felony moves to about 100%. Your conscience is broken at an early age and is unrecoverable. Raise a minority (correction, any child regardless of color) in a loving home were work and respect is taught, and the chance of felony conviction drops to 0%. Its not a racial thing, it’s an environment thing.

    But going soft on crime is not going to repair the issue. The problem is the destruction of the family so all we can do as a society (aside from turn from a secular focus and to God’s law, which is not going to happen) is get these folks away from the rest of us.

    Finally, the issue isn’t punishment it’s the laws we allow to rule us. End the drug war and 3k suddenly looks awesome because you won’t have junkie robber getting 25 to life for simple possession or stealing a laptop. You’ll have genuine 3rd strikes for things that involving actually hurting another human. Plus, ending the drug war automatically reinstates the 4th amendment, demilitarizes the police, and brings privacy back to the People.

    • Like so many “good ideas” — e.g., The (Un)Patriot Act — the 3K laws were “intended” for good use and good reasons. However, as you so well explain it has been totally bastardized for the use and benefit of the self anointed intellectual elites who seek to advance their control of us. Rather than put away serious and violent felons for committing serious crimes, it’s used to manipulate petty criminals and/or build the conviction scores of win-at-all cost (including integrity) prosecutors and generate profits for the private prison system.

      The so-called “War on Drugs” has some very important elements to it that the elites want and have nothing to do with the mundanes getting high or addicted to drugs:
      ~It’s a thriving revenue/budget generating tool for governments on all levels. Big money is at stake through appropriations, fines and imprisonment (the “private” prison system which provides lucrative kickbacks — “donations” — to politicians and bureaucrats).
      ~Allows for justification of asset forfeiture procedures.
      ~Allows cover and markets for covert government agencies to make and launder money through participation in the overall drug market — money “off the books.”
      ~Provides a very strong tool to exercise control over the unwashed masses.
      ~Allows blowhard politicians and legal criminal elements (Police — not all police, but a growing element within the system) to pound their chests and claim they are hard on crime.
      ~And, of course, “it’s for the protection of the children…”

      That’s not a comprehensive list, but it provides many examples of why the war on drugs will not be ended by the political class. And it will continue to be abused by the judicial system in order to control the masses.

      I admire your integrity in getting out of the game. Being a public prosecutor used to mean seeking above all else equal and true justice. Now, it’s a competition to see who can put the most mundanes in prison, generate the most money and is graded not by finding justice but by winning under any circumstances.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s