Argue for or Against the "Three Strikes" Laws
Dictionary.com defines a felony as “an offense, as murder or burglary, of graver character than those called misdemeanors, especially those commonly punished in the U.S. by imprisonment for more than a year”.
For more than past 20 years, state and federal crime control policies have been based on the belief that harsh sentencing laws will deter people from committing crimes. But today, with more than one million people behind bars, and state budgets depleted by the huge costs of prison construction, we are no safer than before. New approaches to the problem of crime are needed, but instead, our political leaders keep serving up the same old strategies. Take the so-called "3 Strikes, You're Out" law, for example. Embraced by state legislators, Congress and the President himself, this law imposes a mandatory life sentence without parole on offenders convicted of certain crimes. Despite its catchy baseball metaphor, this law is a loser, for the following reasons. Its supporters claim that "3 Strikes" laws will have a deterrent effect on violent crime. But these laws will probably not stop many criminals from committing violent acts. For one thing, most violent crimes are not premeditated. They are committed in anger, in the heat of passion or under the influence of alcohol. The prospect of a life s entence is not going to stop people who are acting impulsively, without thought to the likely consequences of their actions. Another reason why repeat offenders do not consider the penalties they face before acting is because they do not anticipate being c aught, and they are right. According to the American Bar Association, out of the approximately 34 million serious crimes committed each year in the U.S., only 3 million result in arrests. Today, the U.S. has the dubious distinction of leading the industrialized world in per capita prison population, with more than one million men and women behind bars. The typical inmate in our prisons is minority, male, young and uneducated. More than 40 percent of inmates are illiterate; one-third were unemployed when arrested. This profile should tell us something important about the link between crime and lack of opportunity, between crime and lack of hope.
The more felony cases that are prosecuted, the higher the costs are to the state’s court system (Occupytheory, 2015). The more felony cases that result in a conviction, the higher the costs of maintaining state prisons become (Occupytheory, 2015). Prison overpopulation also becomes an issue, there needs to be an extra thought on building of extra prisons. Opponents for the three strike law also argue that the third-strike punishment is an extremely harsh for criminals convicted of nonviolent felonies. There are a number of people who are currently serving life sentences for crimes that they did not commit or were trumped up by the prosecution. While murderers and drug dealers certainly deserve the life sentence that they receive, there are far too many California citizens who are spending their lives behind bars for shoplifting and other petty offenses (Occupytheory, 2015). The supporters of this law argue that the three strike law will reduce the number of serious felonies. When criminals are removed off the street on a daily basis, the crime rates in particular areas are reduced. This is due to the imprisonment of habitual offenders and also can be attributed to the fear that the three strikes law puts into the heart of those who are considering a life of crime (Occupytheory, 2015). Supporters also argue that it will protect society from criminals, who are dangerous for public and who don’t want to change. If a criminal knows that they face life in prison if they continue to live a certain lifestyle, the three strikes law can serve as a motivating factor to clean up their act (Occupytheory, 2015). As the judge eventually removes the person from society then there is no opportunity to commit the same crimes over and over again.
Ardaiz, J. (2000). California’s Three Strikes Law: History, Expectations, Consequences. McGeorge Law Review 32(1), 1-36.
Sutton, J. R. (2013). Symbol and Substance: Effects of California’s Three Strikes Law on Felony Sentencing. Law & Society Review, 47(1), 37-72. doi:10.1111/lasr.12001
Occupytheory . (2015, June 10). Three Strikes Law Pros and Cons List. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from https://occupytheory.org/three-strikes-law-pros-and-cons-list/