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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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hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
Yeah we really need to start attacking the head of these issues instead of the tail end.
megnmac megnmac 8 years
hypnoticmix - I wholeheartedly agree that we KNOW how to solve these problems, and that we are all complicit in the crimes in society since we all act to some degree to support a system that fails to help everyone through education and safe, strong childhoods. Education and social services such as foster care and probation are constantly underfunded and understaffed - and these are the programs that we will all benefit from.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
I'm sorry to hear that Matdredalia. I myself have had a run in with a few officers of the law who had a God complex, but like I tell my family and friends in this day and age you have to know your rights. If you don't you will be easy prey for those who abuse the public trust and the power that has been given to them.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
Your point is an excellent band aid to the problem BRANDYNICOLE730, but band aids I'm afraid are not what we need.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
The three strikes law is what I call a political law. It was born out of a need to appear tough on crime and more often than not when our greatest fears are preyed upon reason gives way to misguidedness. As with many laws that stand behind a Vail of deterrence the three strikes law can no more detour crime in general than the death penalty can detour murder. What is interesting about our society and its perception on crime in general is that the majority of us agree that the best deterrent against crime is a fundamentally strong early childhood through 12th grade education system. Fully funded and community supported financially and otherwise across the board. However, our history in this matter shows clearly that our fears are stronger than our desire to change the status quot. We reap what we sow and if all we're sowing is more prisons and feeding a system of crime with children who grow up with little and or poor education in dilapidated schools across the country. Come harvest time we're shutting them up behind a cell door not sending them off to college. This is basic equation stuff here this isn't rocket science. We know how to fix this problem. It is time that we rise up for our children. It is time that we act. It is time that we tell our fears to go the hell and do the right thing.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 8 years
I think that Three Strike laws only work if a criminal is thinking about the consequences of their actions, which I doubt they are. If you want to kill someone you're probably not thinking, wow I shouldn't do this because I could get the death penalty. You're probably thinking I'm going to blow this guys head off. Plus, states that have the death penalty look to have a higher murder rate than states who don't have it (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?scid=12&did=169) so tougher punishment doesn't seem to do much in the way of deterring crime, at least using that as an example.
bellaressa bellaressa 8 years
Sometimes, I wish we could send the people in prison overseas to fight but that's not a good idea.
syako syako 8 years
brandy, I hear a lot of people throwing that "fact" around, do you have some data that shows that? I'm not trying to say you're wrong, I've just heard it a lot in comments on Citizen and wondered where this data was from? thanks.
BRANDYNICOLE730 BRANDYNICOLE730 8 years
If you're concerned with the cost to house these violent criminals, slap yourself! If you want to reduce the cost of housing inmates, and keep violent offenders off the street, then release the people in prison on non-violent marijuana charges. Those are the ones draining our resources, not the people who deserve to be locked up due to violent crime!
megnmac megnmac 8 years
Matdredalia, I am sad that at such a young age you've had such jading experiences with law enforcement. I feel for anyone trapped in the churn that the legal system can be, and I am against mandatory sentencing like the three strikes laws that ties prosecutor and judge's hands from determining how to best resolve cases. I forget sometimes that not everyone gets the whole story, while I'm reading the entire report when deciding how to pursue a case. There are many people in this country that grow up in a world where they really believe there are personal vendettas against them or their family, but ultimately when someone is constantly around crime it isn't that the police have anything personal against them, they are just following the crime. I know a really sweet 18 year old who grew up around a drug dealing father and brother, and had every opportunity to choose to cut ties and live a better life with other family. But sometimes things become so normalized, and we as a society value family... and so she dated a man involved in that world, and forgave all of these men in her life their problems. And is now facing multiple felony counts... why? Because while her brother was in jail, he convinced her to bring him pot. Because while her boyfriend and father were stripping copper, she sat in the car and was ultimately helping by being the lookout. Because when her boyfriend was pulled over and said to hide the meth she hid it in her underwear - and she was in possession of it all when they found it. Because, at a certain point, though she is no criminal mastermind, she is committing felonies and isn't taking the necessary steps to get away from the crimes she was born into. These stories are terrible, and if there is mandatory sentencing laws, she's in prison for life without consideration for the minimal involvement she really had, or the mitigating factors in her story. This is the story I try to keep in mind when thinking about justice, and the complexity everyone is facing in the real world. Judges should have discretion, a range they can sentence a crime for, that allows them to take into account the details of each case. This is what they are there for!
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
I found the article somewhat confusing. I understand that she found a pattern of crime escalation in 3rd strike offenders. But does similar escalation exist in states without 3-strike laws? I don't think there is enough information in the article to come to that conclusion.
syako syako 8 years
maybe if our jails weren't hotels... with HBO and swimming pools...
manologirl manologirl 8 years
3 or 4 strikes. it doesn't make a difference,because a person is going to commit a crime if they really want to. I think that it's wrong when people get life in prison for robbery,because it's their third strike.
Matdredalia Matdredalia 8 years
My biggest problem with the three strikes law is that it doesn't matter what crime you commit, no matter how small, you can wind up with life in prison. This is especially harsh in my area because the cops are extremely crooked and I have seen them frame people on more than one occasion. And I know for a fact they framed up a 3rd strike against someone very dear to me. The first strike was possession of marijuana, he had two joints on him. The second strike was a few months later when he was assaulted and in self defense, put someone in the hospital. Because he was the one standing, he's the one who got the charges. (Not only was my older cousin there, but so was my mother. He didn't start the fight, it was self defense). The third strike, supposedly he broke into someone's house. The reason I know that he was framed is that I was with him the entire day of the robbery (he was my babysitter that day), and when I volunteered to testify on his behalf, the local district attorney told my mother I wasn't allowed to testify because as thirteen year old child, I could be "coerced" into lying. The only reason he isn't spending life in prison is because he fled the state and hasn't come back, even for his cousins funeral. I haven't seen him since he left, and it breaks my heart because he was like my older brother. He can't come visit his step-sister, father, step-mother, brother, etc. because the local cops A) Didn't like him and B) wanted to earn more money for their station. It sounds paranoid, but they also framed my forty year old, disabled aunt who can barely walk without her medication for supposedly cooking meth because she was at a friends house when it got raided (eventually, they acquitted my aunt of all charges, but not before my uncle lost his job and they lost their home trying to cover bail and legal fees). They also gave my cousin a ridiculous ticket, claiming he was driving twenty five miles over the speed limit in town. The problem with this is that my cousin is one of the safest drivers I know, if he'd been going that fast he'd have hit someone in front of him, and his car couldn't even get up to that kind of speed because it was an ancient, 1970's station wagon. The problem with the justice system in our country, especially in rural areas, is that our law enforcement agencies are not always serving and protecting the people they're supposed to. Sometimes they are serving their own interests. I was raised by my mother to trust our police officers. I was always told that they were our friends and protectors and deserve our respect. I even have friends who are State Troopers. However, there are always going to people who will manipulate the system for their own reasons, and unfortunately even minor criminals can wind up paying a hefty price because of someone else's greed or dislike. For example, look at the man in California who spent 25 years in jail for a murder he didn't commit and was recently released. Human error is just that, and our justice system leaves far too much room for it, especially where the three strikes rule is concerned.
Meike Meike 8 years
How about a one strike law when a person commits a first-degree offense. *rolls eyes* Criminals have it too easy. What this law tells me is that it's okay to commit a crime twice before a person is really 'punished'.
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