Examining The Three Strikes Law In America Criminology Essay

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The Three Strikes Law's (3 Strikes Law) is imbalanced to a great extent due to a lack of ability to assess each case on an individual bias. There is a call for the voters to examine the cause and effect involving rulings of such magnitude in our judicial system. The views, opinions or judgments' to reform the 3 strikes law's verdicts could become the voice for change. This would ensure that the law and its resolutions are stated both cognitively and clearly. Each circumstance would be reviewed individually by groups of informative peers that have joined forces with advocators, to offer solutions guided by the principles of racial blindness.

Issues that take place in our country are successful when a call to action has been taken in the "government of the people, for the people and by people" (Borritt). The choice of when to react or how to react to situations we encountered in society today is based on the information available. People make conscious, concise and constructive decisions every day. The legal system works when the community is involved, aware and participating in the decision making process. Choices are believed to be made independently. If the right of choice is taken away, the people as a nation have the responsibility to reevaluate and reassess who abides by the rules and who does not. Society should choose the consequences when the laws are broken. The responsibility of our actions now and those in the future rest upon the shoulders of an educated mankind.

Most have heard of the Three Strikes Law (3 Strikes Law) but many people may not be aware of what this law is or how it effects

what it does, others may be unfamiliar with how it actually works or who it applies to. Then there are others who may feel this law holds no relevance to their life. Each and every one of those responses could be considered valid, unless the effects of the law or outcomes of crimes committed by this law are felt on a personal level.

Imagine someone's daughter, sister or brother, parent or spouse that was brutally attacked or murdered and that the person responsible for the crime had done this before, in fact, this was their third offense. Or just picture a young boy who started down the right path, has a mother who is strung out on crack cocaine and he's left on his own. The pressure gets to him, he is struggling and is bullied into joining a street gang for his survival and ultimately, he is forced to commit crimes to keep food in his stomachache and to be provided with a safe environment to stay alive, time passes, this young man has been in and out of the criminal system and now he wants to better himself, he leaves the gang and attempts to better the lives of his mother and himself. Yet, he has felonies, (a felony is a crime imposed by state prisons, felonies consist of charges which are inclusive of petty theft with a prior conviction, and can range from possession of small amounts of drugs to kidnapping, rape, robbery and murder) which make it difficult for him to obtain employment, this young man is hungry, frustrated and broke. He tries to rob the corner store using a fake gun and gets caught. It is his third offense.

For most, neither scenario is one that an individual would want to find them self facing. Unfortunately, these are the types of dilemmas that are happening in our society every day.

The three-strike law (3 Strikes Law) is a mandatory 25-to-life sentence for a third felony conviction. Every state has its own definition of a felony. Any new felony regardless of how minor may be subject to punishment under the 3 Strikes law if the person has an earlier criminal conviction of one or more serious or violent criminal acts.

In June 1992, an 18-year-old female, Kimberly Reynolds, when leaving a local restaurant, was attacked by two men. They tried to grab her purse, a struggle incurred and in the end, Ms. Reynolds was shot in her ear with a .357 magnum. She died 26 hours later. Her father, Mike Reynolds, made a promise to his daughter on her deathbed, that if he could do anything to prevent this from happening to another child, he would. The men responsible for the murder of his daughter were repeat offenders, the death of his child and the criminal history of her assailants, now turned murders, her death led Mr. Reynolds on a campaign to keep repeat offenders behind bars. He dubbed his effort "three strikes and you're out". He began gathering signatures to get a bill passed stemming from his idea. But, his effort to get his initiative to incarcerate repeat offenders on the ballot failed. Despite National Rifle Association and California Corrections and Peace Officers Association support, signature gathering was going slowly and the bill appeared to be doomed. As sympathetic as legislation might have been to there campaign it was not considered to be a case with a sense of urgency.

In October 1993, eighteen months after the death of Kimberly Reynolds, tragedy struck the city again. This time a twelve year old female, Polly Klass was kidnapped from her home in Petaluma, California and murdered by a repeat offender, Richard Allen Davis. The killing outraged the entire state, but, what enraged people even more was the acquired knowledge that Davis had been in and out of prison his whole life and was set free to kill again.  Soon people began calling for laws that would put repeat violent offenders behind bars for life.  The premise of the new laws became an easy issue for politicians to back.  To oppose such legislation seemed to be political suicide, so most politicians backed the initiative. Although many civil liberties groups opposed such mandatory laws this bill could potentially incarcerate people for ludicrous amounts of time for minor offenses, the dye had been cast and all the groups where in a frenzy to get the bill into place, what many voters did not realize was the cost of implementing such a bill.

Primarily motivated by this tragic crime the voters of California in 1994 passed the ballot called initiative Proposition 184 and this put the 3 strikes law into effect. The law was passed in an effort to reduce crime throughout the state, by severely punishing repeat offenders who are convicted of serious crimes. When a person is convicted of a criminal felony in California he or she will receive a strike on their criminal record, and each strike will result in an additional legal consequences. A person convicted of a crime resulting in a second strike will have a lengthier prison term possibly twice the amount of time, than a person without a previous strike conviction. The outcome of a third conviction that results in a third strike carries a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years to life. California is the only state where the third felony does not have to be serious or violent to count.

A felony is a crime which may consist of arson resulting in bodily harm, attempted murder, robbery committed with a firearm and a lewd act on a child.

The criminal justice system in the United States has traditionally operated under the premises of two fundamentally opposing goals. One is crime control. This goal operates under the idea that criminals should be aggressively pursued and crimes aggressively punished. The other goal is called the due process. This goal operates under the premise that the rights of the accused need to be carefully protected in any criminal justice investigation.

However, with these laws adult sentencing for juveniles will fail to minimize the increasing number of juvenile criminals and may even inhibit rehabilitation. The importance of dealing with criminals varies in degree from their age to the issues that cause them to become involved in crime in the first place.

There are several functions of law, but really only one role. The role of law in society (and likewise in business) is to be the keeper of order and set rules that all individuals are expected to follow, so that there can not only be a consensus on what is right and wrong, but also so there can be a decision on when to punish someone and how to determine whether they have broken the law. This is also important in determining what the punishment should be for specific crimes. Essentially, law is the gatekeeper between right and wrong, and those who are charged to uphold it must take their jobs seriously, less they become corrupted by power and find ways to break the law themselves instead of simply punishing those that do. But the questions remain: Will the advent of three strikes laws deter crime or will offenders become more likely to kill victims, witnesses and police office to avoid harsh sentences? These questions represent important concerns as the cost of implementing mandatory sentencing laws may well include human lives in addition to monetary resources.

Our judicial system is set up so that one is innocent until proven guilty, and so that the punishment fits the crime. This is part of why many view America as the greatest democracy on earth: our laws and punishments, in comparison to some other countries, seem fair and humane. One would think, then, that a convicted rapist or murderer would spend more time in prison than a first-time drug offender charged with dealing a small amount of marijuana, for example. Naturally, right? Not true. Today's "mandatory minimum" laws, are designed to be harsh on all drug offenders, and are putting people behind bars for a long time. Spawned by the United States "War on Drugs," these laws leave judges with little choice when sentencing drug offenders, with mandatory minimum sentences for all drug offenders. These laws target everyone from small-scale pot dealers whose clientele consists only of a few friends, to large-scale heroin gangsters. These laws intend to scare drug offenders with a "no tolerance" policy, which, in theory, is a good idea. However, many are asking the question: is this really the most just and effective way of eradicating our country's drug problem?"

Stealing a few children's videos gave one man in California fifty years to life in prison, while another man received twenty-five years to life for trying to steal a few golf clubs. Does this seem logical? Maybe not too many Americans but in California this occurs quite often.

The law was designed to punish the most serious and habitual offenders and help control crime. By May 31, 2001, over 50,000 criminals had been incarcerated. This included 43,800 under a second strike. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold long-term sentences for two men who were convicted under California's three-strike law (Mears, 2003). The decisions for the two cases, Ewing v. California and Lockyer v. Andrade, increased the likelihood that future challenges to the three-strike law will have to be made in the legislatures.

It is frustrating to see the same individuals churn through the justice system only to commit the same or worse acts time after time. California, one of the first implementers of the three strikes laws, has a sixty percent recidivism rate for some of its most serious crimes but it is always apparent that the solution to the offense is not working. The 3-strikes rule is unfair in its application. Many argue criminal justice systems throughout the United States are discriminatory, but California's is blatantly so. The 3-strike law has had its most dramatic effect on California's African American population. While only 7% of the state's population is African American, more than 40% make up those convicted under the 3-strike law. Plus, the majority of offenses targeted by the law (robbery, possession of drugs) are offenses more commonly performed by minority and underrepresented groups. However, these results showed that the reasoning behind the law is intrinsically flawed for many reasons. For one, there is little evidence that incarcerating the six percent of career criminal actually reduces crime. Rather, evidence shows that a substantial number of young males engage in criminal activity during their adolescence years. Americans perceive crime as a threat, although statistically violent crime has declined in recent years. (Zimring) Responding, many states have adopted "three strikes" laws, based on the idea that a small class of repeat offenders commits the majority of crimes. (Blumstein 2006; Walllman) Proponents of such laws argue that incarcerating "career" criminals reduces crime. Critics call these laws a sloppy response to the problem, only mildly deterrent, and are a financial burden. (Brame)" Nearly half of the states in America drafted and passed habitual offender statutes between 1994 and 1996, most commonly under the banner of the baseball slogan, "three strikes and you're out." These laws have generally been enacted under the assumption that crime would be reduced despite predictions to the contrary that the courts, jails, and prisons would become overwhelmed and that the associated costs would skyrocket. Actual experience in states such as California has borne out the worst fears of many of those predictions the intended effects have backfired on society. This research points to the failure of "three strikes" legislation to curb crime, the needless incarceration of petty criminals in addition to violent offenders, and the current and future costs to society. Most people live within a law abiding frame of life. Our thoughts rarely dwell on what constitutes a misdemeanor or a felony, and for that reason we're at risk that if, whether intentionally or by accident, we break the law, we could be adversely impacted by the three strikes you're out law. It is vital to consider reform of the Three Strikes law. This is providing a disservice to both our criminals, who are guaranteed under our Constitution to receive rights equal to those of all other citizens and who deserve access to a fair trial by their peers uninfluenced by previous offenses, and to the rest of the citizenry who would be required to foot the bill for those who are incarcerated due to the Three Strikes law. First, we must reconsider California's proposition 66 and apply its affects at a federal level. We should return to what the original drafters to the Three Strikes law had intended and consider a mandatory sentence if and only if the individual has a history of violent crime, not just acts of petty theft or other similar activates. Second, we should amend the Three Strikes law to serve as merely a suggestion rather than an inalterable rule. It has been said that only two things are certain death and taxes. Yet to these two inevitabilities, many Americans would add a third crime. The fear of becoming the victim of a crime "especially of a violent crime "haunts many otherwise rational individuals. Violence, it seems, is everywhere. One need only turn on the television to be assailed by images of murder, rape, and physical assault. And, it is not only Hollywood that is the villain. Both local and national newscasts revel in the depiction and discussion of violent acts: a child is kidnapped; a pregnant housewife disappears and is later found murdered; a ruthless killer stalks the streets of a large city. The media like to quote facts. Just yesterday, it was reported that the murder rate in California's most populous urban areas had increased by eleven percent, this despite years of noticeable declines. The sudden upsurge was attributed to the State and the nation's, faltering economy. But, many Californians are not convinced. Nor were they convinced by the multitude of theories that were put forth to explain the skyrocketing crime rates of the 1970s and 1980s. Joblessness, drug use, and lack of education may indeed inspire some to commit violent and antisocial acts; however, to a majority of citizens in the Golden State, the root cause of such behavior is much simpler. Race, Crime and the Law is meant to calm those troubled waters. The books consider the difference that race makes to the experience of individuals and communities with the criminal justice system. It is the soberest and most compendious treatment of this question yet written. Race always has mattered greatly, and it still does: to the police, to courts, and to the rest of the justice system.

Race matters first of all with respect to whether one becomes entangled with the system in the first place. After one is involved, race also affects how cases are handled and disposed of. Most of these books go over the considerable evidence for these propositions, knitted together by a narrative dedicated to creating renewal of hope and promise that the right thing will be done.