California’s Three Strikes Law is nothing new. In fact the popularity of the harsh sentences on career criminals is reaching new heights. Many Californians are happy to see crime rates dropping while state officials are blaming the over crowed prisons on the Three Strikes Law .
For those who dont know the Three Strikes Law is simple, criminals get two chances to improve their lives. If arrested a third time, for violent or non-violent crime, the possible sentence is 25 years to life. Keep in mind the criminal has to be convicted of three crimes in order to face 25 years to life.
Here is where the controversy begins. It has become obvious that different counties of California are enforcing this law in very different way.
Kern County, in California’s central valley, is known for agriculture, oil wells and country music. In legal circles, it’s also known as the county with the highest rate of prosecuting and sentencing people under the three strikes law. In his Bakersfield office, District Attorney Ed Jagels says he’s proud of that record. Jagels complains that the national media lie when they report on California’s three strikes law. They single out cases where the third strike was a nonviolent crime, but they never look at the whole record, he says.
It could be an auto theft. But if the individual has previously been convicted of, let’s say, a rape, an assault with a deadly weapon with great bodily injury, it seems to me, if he hasn’t learned his lesson and we catch him for an auto theft, he needs that severe penalty of 25 to life.
The very popular story of an Inland Empire man facing 25 years for stealing doughnuts has some people questioning the ethical practice of the Three Strikes Law. I say he should not have stolen the doughnut to begin with. Furthermore it was not this one time offense of stealing doughnuts that has him facing 25 years in prison. What are the other two crimes he was convicted of?
A little further south in California one District Attorney does not feel so strongly about carrying out the Three Strikes Law. He says that if the prosecutors abuse the right to sentence career criminals to life, that right will be taken away.
Twenty-five to life is the same sentence we give to first-degree murderers, says Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. And to give that to someone who committed a petty theft or two-bit forgery just seemed disproportionate.
The three strikes law allows prosecutors to disregard some prior offenses. Cooley takes full advantage of that. He almost never charges a nonviolent offense as a third strike. Cooley says it’s almost as if there were different laws in different counties.
I feel DA Cooley is taking the easy road and avoiding accountability. The Three Strikes Law has provided a vast improvement to the state of California and its the residents of the state that keep this law in effect. But choosing which crimes to make a criminal responsible for is a blatant disservice to our community. If we continue to turn a blind eye to small non-violent crimes why have laws at all. It is proven repeatedly that the only deterrent from crime is the actual punishment. These loop holes in the system have left law abiding citizens at risk to be victims of non-violent crimes.