Prop 57 is once again in the news. In a voter-approved ballot measure that was championed and touted by Governor Jerry Brown, California is set to reconsider the life sentencing of up to 4,000 convicted criminals. These life sentences are imposed due to California’s three strikes law: if a person is convicted of three felonies, the consequence is a life prison sentence.
In 2016, Jerry Brown stood firmly behind Proposition 57, which he repeatedly stated would help reduce crowding of California prisons. Prop 57 was proposed with the idea that convicted criminals will be rehabilitated faster and released into the public. The argument against that if the penalty for a crime is lowered, the crime will increase. However, Governor Brown continued to make the argument that this is a necessary risk in order to lessen the current prison population.
California’s prisons are overflowing at the moment and Governor Brown thinks that rehabilitation and release is the best way to solve the crowding problem. Although Brown’s policy is met with some controversy, Prop 57 did pass on a vote of the California electorate.
Both sides of this claim can boil the two sides down simply by posing a circumstantial question: As a parent of a young child, which scenario will best convince the child to comply with your rules? To keep your small child from running into a busy street, would you impose a strict punishment if the demand is not met, therefore deterring the behavioral infraction? Or would you suggest that the child not run into the street and hope they comply? For the sake of the child’s safety, we should all hope for the former.
There are also several things to keep in mind with the illusion of non-violent third strike criminals.
- First, in California, the likelihood of being convicted of a crime is very low due to the policies instituted by the Californa legislature. Unfortunately, given the track record, criminals likely commit crimes numerous times before they are caught, caught numerous times before they are tried, and tried numerous times before they are convicted. With that in mind, it’s likely that a triple felony convicted criminal has and will continue to commit felony crimes.
- Second, non-violent triple offenders are still triple offenders. Knowing that you have two strikes and also knowing the punishment if you get a third, is that’s knowledge enough to stay away from crime? And if that warning still isn’t enough, how sympathetic are we still supposed to be?
- Lastly, the term “non-violent” in this context is misleading. If a criminal commits two violent felonies and then the last strike, or third felony, is non-violent, it’s possible that they can be categorized as non-violent and in the running to be paroled in this new process.
California has put itself in a difficult position of attempting to redefine what is and isn’t a crime and what the appropriate punishment should be. With this policies, unfortunately, we’ve seen massive crime rates rise in metropolitan areas as well as throughout the state. Californians must now ask themselves if this is the California that they wish to see move forward. They can do so at the ballot box this November 6th for the midterm elections.