In 1994, Californians voted for a new ‘3 strikes’ law on the back of the Polly Klass case, in which a 12-year-old girl was murdered by Richard Allen Davis, a man who some argued should never have been allowed back on the streets due to his lengthy criminal history. However, lawmakers and lawyers in the state successfully convinced voters to ease up on this penalty, a 25 years to life certainty after a third violent felony and to trust that crime rates would not go up once certain inmates were released from incarceration.
How have the last 10 months since Prop 36 was passed gone? Everyone from lawyers to the average citizen seem to agree, it’s working just fine. In fact, it’s working better than anyone expected. Crime rates haven’t risen; former ‘3 strikers’ have been out of prison for nearly 4 months now and if they have been charged with any additional crimes, they have been minor and only 2% have been charged at all. Compare this with the fact that, on the whole, the state of California has a 16% re-arrest rate for former inmates who are were not imprisoned due to the 3 strikes rule and that’s a pretty good average.
What these changes, and success also mean is that there are over 2,000 three strikers who have petitioned the court for release under Prop 36. Their lives, and the lives of their families and friends, will certainly be changed for the better now that they no longer have to live under the shadow of a long or life sentence. Who can apply for release? The new changes apply to anyone whose 3rd strike was of a non-violent nature, and had no prior convictions for sexual assault, drug trafficking, or several other violent crimes.