Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Group therapy or cage match? Incredible pictures from inside California’s San Quentin prison
Softer California 3-strikes law would save on older inmates
SAN FRANCISCO — A ballot measure aimed at California’s infamous “three strikes” sentencing law may be an opportunity for the state to put a dent in one problem besetting prison officials across the country: the high cost of aging inmates.
Under three strikes, a person convicted of a felony in California who has two or more prior convictions for certain offenses must be sentenced to at least 25-years-to-life in state prison, even if the third offense is nonviolent.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other prison-reform advocates point to three-strikes laws (California’s was passed in 1994) as the prime driver for an increase in older inmates. Older prisoners are less likely to re-offend, advocates argue, and many can be safely released to ease prison overcrowding.
Yet attempts to reform three strikes in California have stalled both in the legislature and at the ballot box.
Even with a court order, and in a tough budget climate, where reducing the prison population could bring savings, success for reformers in November is far from assured.
“Three strikes has sort of become a sacred cow, sort of this litmus test on ’how law and order are you’ in California,” said Gloria Romero, the former state Senate majority leader whose 2006 bill to relax three strikes died awaiting a floor vote in her own chamber.
Greg Totten, the district attorney in Ventura County, nearly 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles, said the vast majority of state prosecutors will likely oppose any softening of three strikes.
Read More: National Post