Three Strikes: Original Intent
Repeat offenders are perhaps the most difficult offender population for the system to handle, and “protecting communities from these offenders may be the most emotionally and politically charged challenge for the criminal justice system” (Dickey & Hollenhorst, 1999). Though most states had statues targeting career criminals, policy makers and the public continued to push for harsher punishments for repeat offenders during the twentieth century (Brown & Jolivette, 2005). As a result, strict sentencing laws were enforced, such as, three strikes laws that required a person convicted of a felony, that had a previous conviction of one or more felonies to receive a sentence enhancement (Brown & Jolivette, 2005). Supporters of three strikes legislation claimed that these laws could be utilized as a tool to control the crime problem, and the only way to keep violent repeat offenders off of the streets (Brown & Jolivette, 2005).
Essentially, three strikes laws were implemented as a means to effect crime in two ways. Primarily, extending sentences to remove repeat offenders from society for long periods of time would restrict their ability to commit crime, generating an incapacitate effect (Dickey & Hollenhorst, 1999). Secondly, the threat of such long sentences would dissuade some offenders from engaging in new crimes, a deterrent effect (Brown & Jolivette, 2005). Three strikes laws became widespread in 1993 when Washington became the first state to implement them (Dickey & Hollenhorst, 1999). A year later, thirteen states and a federal version of three strikes had been imposed, and in 1995, nine additional states adopted similar laws (Dickey & Hollenhorst, 1999).
Three strikes legislation...
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...ntence does not fit the crime, in that, “ a relatively minor crime committed by a repeat offender could result in a much harsher punishment than a violent crime committed by a first-time offender” (Brown & Jolivette, 2005, p.1).
Three strikes laws appear to grant prosecutorial or executive discretion, which limits judicial discretion in sentencing, raising constitutional concerns about the separation of power (Brown & Jolivette, 2005). In Ewing V. California (2003), the U.S. Supreme court ruled it constitutional to sentence a repeat offender to an indeterminate life sentence for committing a nonviolent or nonserious felony” (Brown & Jolivette, 2005, p.1). The U.S. Supreme court also ruled in People V. Superior Court (1996), that three strikes did not eliminate judicial discretion to dismiss prior serious or violent felony convictions (Brown & Jolivette, 2005, p.1).
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