This House would strike out three-strikes laws

Crafted in response to rising crime rates and high rates of recidivism, mandatory sentencing laws targeting repeat offenders began to appear during the early 1990s. In order to ensure that serious offenders were sentenced to longer periods of time, these statutes severely limited the degree of latitude which judges were allowed to exercise in sentencing.

Perhaps the most controversial such policy was adopted by the state of California in 1994. That year’s Proposition 184 introduced what has become known as the “three-strikes” rule. Intended to target habitual offenders, Prop 184 mandates that any offender who is found guilty of a third felony after being convicted of two separate serious or violent felonies must receive a minimum sentence of 25-years-to-life.

Though half the states and the federal government have enacted their own versions of “three-strikes” for repeat offenders, the legitimacy of three-strikes laws remains an open question. Crime rates have declined to historic lows in California, but academics disagree over the degree to which three-strikes is responsible for the decrease in serious crime.  In addition, the constitutionality of three-strikes laws were challenged in the 2003 Supreme Court case Ewing v. California, though eventually upheld in a narrow 5-4 decision. With incarceration rates on the rise and state budgets tightening each year, these statutes remain a pressing concern both as a matter of principle and of practicality.

Bibliography 

Anderson, Elijah. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: W.W Norton, 1999. Print.Bergstrom, Mark H. "Thoughts from Pennsylvania on "Imprisonment and Crime: Can Both Be Reduced?" Criminology & Public Policy 10.1 (2011): 55-62. Print.Brand- Ballard, Jeffrey. "INNOCENTS LOST: Proportional Sentencing and the Paradox of Collateral Damage." Legal Theory 15.02 (2009): 67. Print.DeFina, Robert H. "The Impact of Mass Incarceration on Poverty." Crime and Deliquency (2009). Print.Helland, Eric, and Alexander Tabarrok. Does Three Strikes Deter? A Non-Parametric Estimation. Rep. Print.Hessick, Carissa B., and F. Andrew Hessick. "Double Jeopardy as a Limit on Punishment." Cornell Law Review 97.3 (2011). Print.KatjaFranko. Sentencing in the Age of Information: from Faust to Macintosh. London: GlassHouse, Cavendih, 2005. Print.Levinson, David. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. Thousand Oaks, Ca.: Sage Publications, 2002. Print.Piritkin, Martin H. Wisconsin Law Review 1050 (2009). Print.Rummel v. Estelle. Supreme Court of the United States. 1980. Print.Schmitt, John, Kris Warner, and Sarika Gupta. The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration. Rep. Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 2010. Web. 6 Aug. 2011.Shepherd, Joanna M. "Fear of the First Strike: The Full Deterrent Effect of California's Two- and Three-Strikes Legislation." Journal of Legal Studies 31 (2002). Jan. 2002. Web. 7 Aug. 2011.Spencer v. Texas. Supreme Court of the United States. 1966. Web.Stith, Kate, and José A. Cabranes. Fear of Judging: Sentencing Guidelines in the Federal Courts. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998. Print.

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