Three Strikes Law
The Three Strikes Law was implemented for the first time on March 7, 1994 to increase the punishment of offenders who have more than two serious crimes. To apply the Three Strikes Law, the offender must have at least one felony offense within his three offenses; within serious or violent crimes we have murder, sexual abuse, rape, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault. This law requires life sentences of at least 25 years when the offender perform the third crime. Although for legislators, government and citizens, the Three Strikes Law has helped them to control violent crimes, at the same time it has impacted the correctional system and the life of the offenders.
Currently there are 28 states that use the Three Strikes law to punished repeat offenders, being California the most severe applying this law (Shoener, 2018). South Carolina also implemented the law of the three strikes in 1995, (Latessa & Smith, 2015); this law is found in the Code of laws of South Carolina, in section 17-25-45. Within the states that implemented the Three Strikes Law, there are differences in how they classify the seriousness of the crimes committed and which crimes are considered applicable to the Three Strikes law, for example in South Carolina this law is applied to the crime of embezzlement, in Indiana and Louisiana it is applied to crimes in the sale of drugs, in Florida it is applied when the prisoners escape from the prison and in Washington it is applied when treason is committed (Kamiar, 2015).
These differences in the application of the law have caused inconsistencies and affecting the correctional system. The third strike does not have to be a conviction for a violent crime to result in a 25-year sentence. For example, if a person is accused of stealing videos on several occasions, he could receive up to 25 years of imprisonment under the Three Strikes law, however, in another state where the Three Strikes law is not in force, it would only be a few months in advance. Misdemeanors or felonies, known as wobbler crimes, are an important part of the application of this law and the court has been given the authority to use it as a felony, even if the crime was a minor; if an offender committed two serious offenses and his third offense is a misdemeanor, he could be subject to the judge considering the misdemeanor a serious one and applying the Three Strikes Law; on the contrary, if an offender first commits a misdemeanor and then two serious offenses; he would not qualify for the application of the Three Strikes law (Shoener, 2018).
The implementation of this law increasing the prison population and increasing the cost of operations within the prison. It increases the time of the sentences and the cost of living inside the prison, “before the implementation of the law the average time of the sentence was 21 months, after its implementation, this time had increased a 19 percent; this costs the state about $60,000 per offender. The average age of the corrections population has also increased; it has changed from 32 to 36 years since 1994” (Brown & Jolivette, 2005).
The creation of this law has brought debates about its fairness and proportionality; since this law has sent to prison criminals with offenses of shoplifting for up to 25 years. A crime of theft and a crime of murder, have the same sentence of 25 years of jail. Due to this situation, some states have modified the law, for example, California (Court, 2012). On November 6, 2012, the voters of California approved Proposition 36, with this proposal the law was modified in the following aspects: the requirements to convict a defendant using the Three Strikes law will require that the new crime be a serious crime or violent with two or more previous strikes to qualified for the 25- year sentence and added a way in which defendants who are currently serving a sentence may apply to the court for a reduction on their sentences as long as they are eligible due to this new approval (Court, 2012). According to each state will find discrepancies in the application of this law, we will see more changes in it.
Three Strikes Law