Changed My Mind: Three Strikes Laws

I’ve been challenged on a few occasions, as one tends to be if one is a fairly strong adherent of one end of the political spectrum or another, as to whether I’ve ever changed my mind on anything to a position contrary to the standard conservative one. And so, an example:

When a three strikes law was put on the ballot in California (where I lived at the time) I was a strong supporter. California was one of the first states to pass a three strikes law, and there was huge support for it because California was suffering badly from the 90s crime wave. The case for it seemed simple: If you’ve committed three felonies, you’re clearly not learning your lesson, and 25-life will take you off the streets and prevent you from continuing to be a danger to society. Support for the bill was heavily fueled by frustration with a justice system which seemed to act far too much like a revolving door, with rapists and murderers often being back on the streets within 5-8 years, and proceeding to commit similar crimes again. With the judiciary and prison system seemingly unwilling to do their job in keeping criminals off the streets, the case seemed strong for citizens to pass legislation forcing them to, and the three strikes law seemed like an obvious way to do it.

However, it’s not just in regards to economics and welfare that top down attempts at control end up doing stupid things in individual circumstances. The one-size-fits-all approach to sentencing soon ended up producing absurdities in which someone with an undeniably criminal background committed some fairly minor third offense which was nonetheless classified as a felony (in part due to Californians fed up with failure to enforce the law having made an awful lot of things felonies in past years) and landing himself in prison for 25-life. In 2000, 60% of California voters supported an initiative to stop sending people up for 25-life for felony possession of a controlled substance, sending them to drug treatment programs instead. But even so, while I continue to deeply sympathize with the motives behind supporting the three strikes law, it’s continued enforcement does still result in unjust sentences being handed down on comparatively minor crimes.

While I think that laxity and mismanagement in the judicial and prison systems were much to blame for the sentiments that put Three Strikes in place, and I continue to think it’s important for the justice system to enforce the law rather than operating a revolving door policy, I think that the Three Strikes law was, in the end, a bad choice, and I would support repealing it.

28 Responses to Changed My Mind: Three Strikes Laws

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Good post Darwin, and I agree.

    This is an example of democracy gone sour. People cannot be made to suffer to appease the frustrations of the electorate. People should be able to choose from among just and rational options – not to impose mob mentality through the ballot box.

  • Gabriel Austin says:

    “This is an example of democracy gone sour. People cannot be made to suffer to appease the frustrations of the electorate. People should be able to choose from among just and rational options – not to impose mob mentality through the ballot box”.

    The idea seems on the face of it to be rational. What arguments have you against it?

    And a reminder. GKC said that there is nothing infallible about democracy. What will you substitute – rule by “experts”?

  • Matt McDonald says:

    What about the victims? Who looks out for them?

    I don’t know if 3-strikes or mandatory minimums is the right approach, but stiffer sentences (longer or harder time) is absolutely necessary. Maybe throwing judges out of office who’s sentences do not meet with public demands for protection. How about just “honesty” in sentencing? 10 years = 10 years, instead of out in 2 with good behavior or whatever the ratio is. This is especially problematic in plea bargain cases. Think of a guy who commits a crime with a 10 year sentence, but the prosecutor justifiably pleas it to a 5 year and the offender is out in 2 or so…

  • Jonathan says:

    This post raises a long-standing discussion in criminal law, which is the question of why and how we ought to punish criminals. Specifically, some of the interesting questions involved are:

    What factors play (or should play) into sentencing:

    1. Prior bad actions?
    2. Prior convictions?
    3. Nature of the crime at hand and prior crimes (bad in and of itself (murder) versus bad because of law (felon possessing a weapon)).

    Why do we punish?

    1. Reform the criminal.
    2. Retribution.
    3. Safety of society.
    4. Deter others from committing the crime.

    How long and what type of punishment ought to be given for which crimes?

    The last question is what seems to be most relevant here. Most people in the general public favor a fairly tight relation between crime committed and punishment given. Obviously, the three-strikes law is a departure, sometimes significantly in practice, from that idea.

    The interesting questions is, why does it seem unjust to us that these laws should work as they do? Taking a easier case, if a person has committed three felonies, and is fully aware that his third felony will result in a lengthy prison stay, why would it follow that it is unjust if he is fully aware of the consequences of his actions? On one hand, we could posit some sort of idea that it is not just knowledge of the punishment, but also the justice of the punishment in and of itself that is in question. Therefore, without congruence between punishment and crime, the law itself is unjust.

    On the other hand, knowledge of and ability to knowingly avoid committing a crime is a large part of justice. From whence can we derive the idea that, if a felon knew of the law, and knew how to avoid it, and knew the punishment for committing it, the length of time itself is unjust?

  • Matt,

    I’m very much in favor of strict sentencing and sticking to those sentences. It’s just that I’ve come around to thinking that three strikes laws are a pretty poor way of achieving that — although motivated by legitimate indignation at failure to enforce the law.

    The big problem, as I see it, is that felonies have come to be a very wide range of crimes in most states. Stealing and expensive set of golf clubs, or being caught with a few ounces of pot, while both activities that I heartily disapprove of, don’t strike me as things meriting a 25-life sentence — even if the same person had done similar things twice in the past. It’s that kind of lack of precision that is the problem, in my mind.

    Jonathan,

    Good points all round. I’d say we punish criminals for all four of the reasons you cite — though primarily for 2-4, 1 is more up to the criminal than the state in many cases.

    I do think it’s often legit to take frequency of offense into consideration in sentencing — I just think that the three strikes law proved to be too broad brush and thus resulted in a lot of poor results. The last thing I want is to see a first time offender for armed robbery or rape given a lighter sentence because the prison system is clogged up with a bunch of petty shoplifters and druggies who have been locked up by three strikes.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    “The idea seems on the face of it to be rational. What arguments have you against it?”

    Well, I did say rational AND just… I suppose if one’s goal is to be as vindictive and unmerciful as possible, establishing a law that could send a person to prison for decades because they stole a pair of socks is rational in the instrumental sense. It gets the job done.

    My argument against it is Darwin’s argument. We are in agreement. I know someone whose father may be going to prison for shoplifting for life, because 20 years ago they were in a gang and had two previous felonies. That is an injustice.

    “And a reminder. GKC said that there is nothing infallible about democracy. What will you substitute – rule by “experts”?”

    I don’t object to citizens being able to choose from among rational and just policies. I do object to the notion that the fury of the mob can be represented by laws.

  • California has clearly suffered from too much democracy.

    I think sex offender laws are even more unjust. Constituents want ever harsher sex offender laws and there is absolutely no impetus to scale them back. That California case of the sex offender who managed to kidnap and rape a girl in his backyard for 18 years should demonstrate that many sex offender laws are just feel-good laws that don’t actually work. Unfortunately, the public will probably get the idea that the laws aren’t harsh enough.

  • foxfier says:

    My argument against it:
    sentence folks properly the first time– doesn’t it basically boil down to “you guys in charge of keeping bad guys in jail aren’t doing your job, so we’ll force you to do it”?

    If the folks in charge of that can’t manage their jobs, we might need ta replace ‘em….

    RR-
    I know a guy who is…well, very dumb. There’s no nice way to put it. Not a bad person, just very very very low IQ and lacking in reasoning skills.

    He and a friend were accused by a 15 year old daughter of the friend’s girlfriend of rape. The other guy hired a lawyer; this guy went with public council, who told him to just say he was guilty and he’d be able to get out on bail. So he did.

    Girl admitted during the other guy’s trial that it was all a lie to hurt her mom, who wouldn’t do something or other the 15 year old wanted. So the other guy got off.

    The dumb guy is listed as a sex offender, is still under supervision and spent six months in jail, on an accusation that is known false.

    Sex offender laws *do* need some work….

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    Yes, I agree there are serious problems with “three strikes” and some sex offender laws.

    The main problem, I think, is that the general public and to some degree politicians equate “felony” with “violent crime,” and “sex offender” with “mad degenerate lurking in the bushes waiting to attack someone.”

    However, many non-violent offenses are felonies, and not all sex offenses involve violence or coercion. Felonies can include everything from murder to calling in a false fire alarm or shoplifiting an item worth more than $300 (or whatever the cutoff point for felony theft is in your state).

    Sex offenses, meanwhile, can include anything from rape and child molestation to a teenage boy grabbing a girl’s breasts as a prank — again, depending on how the laws of one’s state read. Sex offenders in some states may be required to register with law enforcement and severe restrictions placed on where they can live, regardless of the nature of their offense. Restricting people who have repeatedly molested children or raped women on the street is one thing; doing so to an 18-year-old guy who went too far with his 15-year-old girlfriend is another thing entirely.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    I don’t think anecdotal cases of false convictions due to stupid confessions are evidence for a need to reform the sex offender system.

    Having said that, their is a serious problem when true sexual predators are not distinguished from teenage Lothario’s and pranksters, there is also a serious problem when you converge multiple attempts to curb crime (3 strikes and low thresholds for felonies).

    I would say that, on the whole, a proper reform of our justice system would generally enhance punishment, not diminish it.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    foxfier,

    Create a new area of sex crimes, too– false accusations.

    i don’t think so, if the person is innocent then they should not confess or be convicted, don’t add a new problem to fix another problem.

    There certainly is an issue with excessive pressure on defendants to confess even if they’re innocent. This has nothing to do with sex offender laws but with the structure of the judicial system.

  • foxfier says:

    i don’t think so, if the person is innocent then they should not confess or be convicted, don’t add a new problem to fix another problem.

    Perhaps they should raise the level of proof needed for conviction, then, because the rape laws are a joke right now. It’s entirely possible to be convicted of rape on week-old say-so of a woman, without so much as proof you were at the same party.

    Filing false reports of arson, murder or assault has consequences– why is rape different?

  • Matt McDonald says:

    foxfier,

    Perhaps they should raise the level of proof needed for conviction, then, because the rape laws are a joke right now. It’s entirely possible to be convicted of rape on week-old say-so of a woman, without so much as proof you were at the same party.

    The standard is beyond a reasonable doubt for any crime, but at the same time I believe that in many places the laws limit the defense’s options for cross-examination in ways which MIGHT actually skew the result.

    Without any physical evidence of rape I would be hard pressed to convict beyond reasonable doubt. There would have to be something beyond the he said/she said.

    Filing false reports of arson, murder or assault has consequences– why is rape different?

    they shouldn’t be… are they???

  • foxfier says:

    False accusations/filing a false police report– yes they’re illegal! Or they’re supposed to be, though the recent woman who claimed to have been gang raped by four or five men up until one of them produced a cellphone video that showed she was stone-cold sober and utterly willing is the only case I’ve ever heard of the law even *considering* prosecuting false claims of rape.

    Remember that stripper that accused the lacrosse team of raping her? Turned out she makes this accusation a LOT, with no harm to her should it be shown to be a lie?

    It’s a disgusting abuse of the protections set in place for people who truly are victimized by scum– it turns them on their head to victimize someone else. A rape conviction can ruin your life faster than one for murder, for crying out loud….

  • Art Deco says:

    The problem, IMO, is that three strikes laws are crude measures which have the ad man’s virtue of being reducible to slogans. A layman’s suggestions for replacements:

    –End indeterminate sentencing.

    –End judicial discretion over sentancing. Have the sentance or sentancing formulae dependent upon circumstance specified in the statute.

    –Have the sentance reduced by a statutorily specified percentage should the defendant plead guilty.

    –Track an individuals convictions over time and ‘award’ points for each based on the severity of the statutorily specified penalty. Establish a formula in law by which the statutorily specified sentance is to be enhanced given the number of points a defendant has accumulated.

    –Follow the same fact-finding procedures for juvenile crime as for adult crime. Have a separate and more lenient schedule of penalties and a separate set of prisons.

    –Limit the use of fines the most minor offenses and to corporate defendants.

    –Scrap probation, conditional discharge, and unconditional discharge.

    –Make use of restitution for property crimes in addition to incarceration.

    –Scrap prison furloughs.

    –Require a convict to serve at least half of his pronounced prison sentance before parole review is undertaken. Base parole review strictly on reported adherence to prison rules and avoidance of criminal conduct in prison.

    –Construct prisons so as to give each convict a small individual cell. Limit the amount of time out of the cell to a few hours a day, at most. Have simple and monotonous meals served in the cell. Eliminate prison amenites beyond electricity, heat, bedding, uniforms, and food.

    –Make statutory sentances short, but be sure they are served. A sentance longer than six years should be rare.

    –When you have finished your parole, you may be prohibited from receipt of certain public trusts (jury service, positions in law enforcement &c., pistol licenses). However, you are a free man, entititled to live where you please.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Art Deco,

    great post, let’s get down to details:

    –End indeterminate sentencing.

    –End judicial discretion over sentancing. Have the sentance or sentancing formulae dependent upon circumstance specified in the statute.

    I don’t think this would work, we still need a judge to sentence based on the circumstance and sometimes deviate from the expected sentence (up or down). Perhaps some sort of review board with citizen representation for all cases which deviate from the fixed sentence, or something like that.

    –Have the sentance reduced by a statutorily specified percentage should the defendant plead guilty.

    I like that, no getting off scot-free or pleading to some lesser offense, concealling the reality of the actual crime.

    –Track an individuals convictions over time and ‘award’ points for each based on the severity of the statutorily specified penalty. Establish a formula in law by which the statutorily specified sentance is to be enhanced given the number of points a defendant has accumulated.

    A little to complicated, though I like the intent. THere really should be a substantial escalation of penalties for repeat offenders, but I don’t think this would work.

    –Follow the same fact-finding procedures for juvenile crime as for adult crime. Have a separate and more lenient schedule of penalties and a separate set of prisons.

    that’s not how it works?

    –Limit the use of fines the most minor offenses and to corporate defendants.

    that’s not how it works?

    –Scrap probation, conditional discharge, and unconditional discharge.

    for minor first offenses this really does make sense.

    –Make use of restitution for property crimes in addition to incarceration.

    absolutely.

    –Scrap prison furloughs.

    absolutely.

    –Require a convict to serve at least half of his pronounced prison sentance before parole review is undertaken. Base parole review strictly on reported adherence to prison rules and avoidance of criminal conduct in prison.

    absolutely.

    –Construct prisons so as to give each convict a small individual cell. Limit the amount of time out of the cell to a few hours a day, at most. Have simple and monotonous meals served in the cell. Eliminate prison amenites beyond electricity, heat, bedding, uniforms, and food.

    I think it would be better to expand prison work, make it hard work that would help fund the prison, good behavior and effort would lead to increased comforts and privileges as well as better work and even job training. One of the most successful programs is a commercial diver training program in California, it has an incredibly low recidivism rate because it instills disciple and is a lot of hard physical work. The graduates make good money and are closely watched for drug use due to the nature of the work, they’re actually in high demand by employers.

    ps. no exposure to the public! None of these call centers that have been setup in places, it’s absurd.

    –Make statutory sentances short, but be sure they are served. A sentance longer than six years should be rare.

    no way. 6 is only sufficient for moderate property crimes, or very minor assaults. Robbery, aggravated assault, etc. should be twice that, with at least 6 years before parole.

    –When you have finished your parole, you may be prohibited from receipt of certain public trusts (jury service, positions in law enforcement &c., pistol licenses). However, you are a free man, entititled to live where you please.

    Additional conditions on a case by case basis, true sexual offenders need mandatory conditions and possibly lifetime ones beyond the original sentence.

  • Jonathan says:

    Art,

    Many of these present problems. The ones which seem the most problematic, and which raise other questions, are:

    1. “End judicial discretion over sentancing.” – This is precisely the problem with the three-strikes laws. They are crude because judges have no discretion to hone sentencing finely.

    2. “Have the sentance reduced by a statutorily specified percentage should the defendant plead guilty.” This bothers me. There is too much potential for this to result in defendants who are innocent, but who think they will be steamrolled in court, to plead guilty. This is the same thing that happens in plea-bargaining.

    3. “Track an individuals convictions over time and ‘award’ points for each based on the severity of the statutorily specified penalty.” This could be construed as penalizing someone multiple times for the same offense.

    4. Why would you limit the use of fines, especially if the crime is not a violent one and / or is more white collar?

    5. Why should a sentence longer than six years be rare?

    6.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    3. “Track an individuals convictions over time and ‘award’ points for each based on the severity of the statutorily specified penalty.” This could be construed as penalizing someone multiple times for the same offense.

    I think it’s already established that subsequent offenses can involve escalating sentences, am I wrong here?

  • foxfier says:

    I think the sticking point would be formalizing it– right now, it’s something the Judge can take into account; if it’s added automatically, especially if we start doing so retroactively, they might successfully challenge it on the double-jeopardy basis.

  • Art Deco says:

    I don’t think this would work, we still need a judge to sentence based on the circumstance and sometimes deviate from the expected sentence (up or down). Perhaps some sort of review board with citizen representation for all cases which deviate from the fixed sentence, or something like that.

    You can incorporate some circumstances into the provisions that specify the sentance, e.g. having sentances on drug charges computed by a formula dependent upon the units of contraband involved (one unit being so-and-so many ounces of marijuana, so and so many grams of cocaine, &c.) and incorporating a constant set at 1 for possession and 1+x for sale. One other thing one might attempt is devolving the function of executive clemency on county executives.

    Question: do we, by allowing judicial discretion, approach or recede from justice in the application of punishment. That depends on how reliable we regard the judgment of judges as a class of people. Mr. McClarey or Mr. Price might educate us here. My own understanding is that judges are knowledgeable about questions of law and serve their function by ruling on them and providing for regularized procedures, and are more practiced at explicit reasoning. I am not persuaded that judges have a more reliable moral sense than ordinary men, or that their comparative judgments in this realm will be better. We have three strikes laws because the conjoined judgments of prosecutors, judges, and parole boards generate decisions that are mad.

    that’s not how it works?

    The last time I studied the Penal Law of New York (some 20 years ago), the discretion to make use of alternatives to incarceration was broad but not unlimited. I think felony convictions mandated some prison time, but the exceptions and qualifications written into the sentancing rules were so rococo I am not sure I understood them. As of 1985, we had 35,000 people incarcerated here and 250,000 convictions per year, which is to say that convicts served a mean of about 52 days; about 73% of those convicted in New York’s courts served no time whatsoever. (I recall at that time that 38% of those initially charged in New York courts were hit with at least one felony count). When I say the most minor offense, I mean traffic tickets and sub-misdemeanor ‘violations’. If you plead guilty to disorderly conduct, you get three days in jail and a $120 fine.

    I think it would be better to expand prison work, make it hard work that would help fund the prison, good behavior and effort would lead to increased comforts and privileges as well as better work and even job training. One of the most successful programs is a commercial diver training program in California, it has an incredibly low recidivism rate because it instills disciple and is a lot of hard physical work. The graduates make good money and are closely watched for drug use due to the nature of the work, they’re actually in high demand by employers.

    I have several objections. One is that prison factories are a source of weapons. Another is that a penal system should be about punishment, not therapy. Allocate the task of straightening people out to philanthropies like the Church and the Salvation Army, who can get to work when the convicts are released. A third is Charles Murray’s objection that successful social work and education programs are often so because of factors peculiar to their founders, and difficult to standardize and replicate. I also think that guards allocating privileges to specified convicts is likely to have an unsalutary effect on prison society.

    no way. 6 is only sufficient for moderate property crimes, or very minor assaults. Robbery, aggravated assault, etc. should be twice that, with at least 6 years before parole.

    I think you can, within and between societies, garner considerable agreement on a rank ordering of offenses according to their severity. (One exception would be sex offenses). The thing is, it is difficult to have any sort of fruitful discussion of precise quanta of punishment for particular offenses. We might agree that robbery merits more than burglary, but could not on the precise number of years accorded to each. We are going to have to agree to disagree. Several points…

    –I am proposing a penal system quite different and much more austere than that which currently prevails. A convict sits in his cell 21 hours a day, lives on bulgar wheat and lard, and does not interact socially with anyone other than a weekly (non-conjugal) visitor, his lawyer, the guards, and the chaplains.

    –It is a commonplace (and I imagine substantiated somewhere) that the surety of punishment is a more powerful vector than the severity of punishment in deterring bad behavior. One needs to consider an optimal balance of resources between law enforcement and all other claims and between the various components of law enforcement (police patrols v. prison space). You start locking up burglars for six year sentances, it is going to get mighty expensive.

    –I am not persuaded that the procedures of the court system are all that accurate. Short determinate sentances are a hedge.

  • Art Deco says:

    1. “End judicial discretion over sentancing.” – This is precisely the problem with the three-strikes laws. They are crude because judges have no discretion to hone sentencing finely.

    That might be your problem with ‘three-strikes’ laws. It is not mine. “Three strikes” laws prescribe a life sentance for an offense in the nominal category ‘felony’ without regard without regard to what the crime is or how severe the previous felonies were. The sentances prescribed are cockeyed, not the procedures by which they are imposed. I am suggesting that sentances be specified in the statute or that formulae to compute them be so specified. If you commit a robbery, you get 24 months. If you commit a second robbery, you get 29 months. If you commit a third, you get 38 months, not 25 years to Life.

    This bothers me. There is too much potential for this to result in defendants who are innocent, but who think they will be steamrolled in court, to plead guilty. This is the same thing that happens in plea-bargaining.

    Defendants already face these dilemmas. Remissions specified in the statute make the consequences of particular courses of action more apparent to defendants. This particular suggestion does not provide for disposing of plea bargaining, it merely alters one of the parameters which influence negotiations between prosecutors and defense attorneys. It is my understanding that certain states have disposed of plea bargaining with success and that is something I would like to see.

    This could be construed as penalizing someone multiple times for the same offense.

    There were in 1989 provisions in the Penal Law of New York for modified sentencing schedules for people classified as ‘persistent felony offenders’ and the like. As far as I know, these have not been adjudged to violate constitutional provisions proscribing double jeopardy, so I think they are in accord with positive law. If you think they are unjust in spite of that you are suggesting that deterrence can play no proper role in penology or that escalation of punishments is inherently unjust, no?

    Why would you limit the use of fines, especially if the crime is not a violent one and / or is more white collar?

    I am more concerned to dispose of alternatives to incarceration. The utility of incarceration is that it robs people of time and freedom, and these are goods most equally distributed in the population at large. I do not understand the principle which finds that violent offenses merit prison time and property crimes do not (as opposed to less prison time), or that the local thug who took ninety dollars off you gets prison and the broker who embezzled the savings you accumulated over twenty years does not.

    Why should a sentence longer than six years be rare?

    See above. Consider that in New York, you had six classes of felonies. The most serious are Class A-I felonies, and of these there are only five: first and second degree murder, first degree kidnapping, first degree arson, and trafficking in large quanta of narcotics. IIRC, the only Class A-II felonies were certain drug charges. Back when I made it my business to study the crime statistics, you had 250,000 convictions in New York. The sum of murders and aggressive manslaughters was, IIRC, under 2,000. I think about 40% of these went unsolved, so the ratio of resolved homicides (many of which are class B felonies due to circumstances or plea bargaining) to total convictions would be about 0.35%. It seems to me that kidnapping for ransom and blowing up buildings are quite unusual, so I do not think convictions for 1st degree kidnapping and 1st degree arson are going to add much to that. Drug charges might. The most serious crimes are just not that common.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    ” I am not persuaded that judges have a more reliable moral sense than ordinary men, or that their comparative judgments in this realm will be better.”

    You can bank on that! All you can say about judges as a group is that they will usually have a firm grasp of the law and court room procedures. Their grasp of morality is about the same as any group of individuals who have not been convicted of serious crime. Judges should have some discretion within a range of possible sentences, but given too much discretion and sentences for serious felonies will vary wildly from judge to judge. I believe a large amount of judicial discretion makes sense for first time offenders, misdemeanors and lesser or nonviolent felonies. Serious felonies involving violence however need a uniformity of sentencing to deter others from these acts and to ensure punishment for heinous crimes.

  • Matt McDonald says:

    Art,

    I am proposing a penal system quite different and much more austere than that which currently prevails. A convict sits in his cell 21 hours a day, lives on bulgar wheat and lard, and does not interact socially with anyone other than a weekly (non-conjugal) visitor, his lawyer, the guards, and the chaplains.

    I’m surprised that nobody has come out and labelled your proposal to be torture… Honestly, I have no problem with this treatment for convicted criminals, I just think hard labor is going to be more effective at preventing recividism, which is important.

    You start locking up burglars for six year sentances, it is going to get mighty expensive.

    I’m not so sure, but 6 years with parole in 3 sounds fine to me for committing a serious property crime which potentially would have escalated to assault or murder if the premise had been occupied. I would probably settle for a 4/2 for burglary of an UNOCCUPIED residence.

    If you commit a robbery, you get 24 months. If you commit a second robbery, you get 29 months. If you commit a third, you get 38 months, not 25 years to Life.

    that’s absurd. 2 year sentence, serve only 1 year for robbery???? 38 months, serving only 19 for the THIRD offense? Robbery is not a property crime (ie. burglary or theft) it is by definition violent, and it is against a person, generally a vulnerable one. Sorry, this has to be 6 year/3 year parole on first offense, escalating on subsequent, and is completely justified for life in prison on the 3rd. I’m speaking here of 3 separate convictions, not so much a case where a man is simultaneously convicted of multiple offenses. To qualify for escalation, it would have to be offenses subsequent to the original conviction.

    Keep in mind also, that we’re talking about convictions, it’s entirely likely that these guys have committed many other similar or worse crimes that they got off on or were never even picked up. Most guys convicted on 3 separate occaisions would have been known to have committed many other offenses to which conviction didn’t seem likely.

    While we’re at it, we need to look at reducing the amount of concurrent sentencing. I don’t know if they should be completely consecutive, but each additional offense MUST result in at least a portion of additional punishment.

    Remember the “justice” in justice system refers to justice for the victim and society who have been harmed, and the punishment must reflect the severity of the offense upon the victim.

    Donald,

    I agree with you on discretion for first time offenders, and less discretion for subsequent ones. I still believe though, that in the current environment a citizens committee should have prior review on judicial sentences outside of a standard (except perhaps for jury sentences).

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