The three-strikes law mandate courts to issue heavier sentences to individuals convicted of an offense in case they had been found guilty previously of two serious criminal offenses. The law, which was put in place to incapacitate people who are more like to commit crimes, has led to overcrowding in prisons. Its unexpected adverse effects to the public policy have prolonged debate on who should have the blame for the law enactment. This paper describes who or what should be blamed for the problems that have resulted from the law and the factors offered as the causes of the problems.
The three strikes law that was passed in 1993 first in Washington and signed by the then president Bill Clinton has seen defendants sentenced for too long in prison. Many young people have seen themselves convicted in jail more than they expected, and they have sought to challenge the law to be unconstitutional. For example, in the case of Locker V. Andrade, the accused was determined to be guilty of stealing some videotapes that were worth $150 from two stores in California; the defendant had some previous sentences and was sentenced to 50 years in prison (Sutton, 2013).
The blame of the enactment of the law can fall on various parties. The first and foremost party are the Washington state voters who approved the law in Initiative 593. California passed the law later in 1994 by an overwhelming majority of 72% against 28% which was against the law (Kieso, 2005). The public itself has to take the blame for passing a law without adequate knowledge of its repercussions. The consequences of the law have turned out to be bitter, and its evident as many people have realized the downside of the law which they had earlier massively upheld.
Other parties that could be blamed are the leaders who should have reformed the law when they realized that it was not effective from the time it was affected in 1993. They have waited until it has come to the notice of President Barrack Obama who has recently called for its amendment. Barrack Obama has stated that some of the young prisoners who have faced the sentence through the law, their sentences are beyond their offenses. The leadership has to be blamed especially Bill Clinton who has also admitted that he made a huge mistake for signing in the law.
The primary motivator of having the law in place was to curb the then high rates of crime in states. The law has reduced the criminal rates in some of the US states. For instance, in Los Angeles and other Southern California areas in1992, there were more 1000 homicides committed in that year but in 2010, there were only 297 (Sutton, 2013). The law reduced the rate of crime rates as individuals fear to be sentenced through the law. The law has scared many criminals from committing serious crimes.
A large number of supporters of the law led to the law being passed in many of the states. The 184 supporters argued that the imposition of long sentences on the offenders who repeat their mistakes would reduce the crime rate and make the society peaceful (Kieso, 2005). They argued that the law would remove the felons from the community for a longer period resulting in reduced opportunities of committing further crimes. The threats that are offered by the law propositions would discourage the offenders from involving themselves in other crimes that could see them being sentenced.
Kieso, D. (2005). Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes law. New York: LFB Scholarly Pub.
Sutton, J. (2013). Symbol and Substance: Effects of California's Three Strikes Law on Felony Sentencing. Law & Soc'y Rev, 47(1), 37-72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/lasr.12001
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