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Three-Strikes Laws

Do "Three-Strikes" Laws Make Crime Worse?

"Three-strikes" laws have now been enacted in 26 states. The laws are a strict attempt to close prisons' revolving doors, adding higher penalties and disincentives for those considering repeat offenses. The laws are philosophically controversial, but they could be practically controversial as well.


A new study looks at California's Three-Strikes law. While the study found that the laws seemed to reduce criminal activity by 20 percent for second-strike eligible offenders, with a 28 percent decline for third-strike eligible offenders, it also showed these benefits bring with them some unintended consequences.

Under these types of laws, criminals were more likely to commit more violent crimes — an increase of 9 percent. Also, because California's law (the one used in the study) is more strict than the laws of nearby states, Three Strikes appears to herd crime out to neighboring states, increasing the migration of criminals with second- and third-strike eligibility. The study summed up that the "high cost of incarceration combined with the high cost of violent crime relative to nonviolent crime implies that Three Strikes may not be a cost effective means of reducing crime."

Want to read more about the study? Slate ran a great piece this week considering the question of bigger, badder, second-struck criminals.

What do you think? Does the fact that the laws seem to reduce crime by almost 30 percent prove that it works? Do you think a looming third strike just motivates criminals to commit bolder, more violent crimes to make it count?

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