In California, a commission made up of seven people has spearheaded an effort to overhaul the many rules of state penal code. These efforts include an end to California’s “three strikes” law. It also makes changes to lifetime prison sentences without parole. This is in effort to move California more toward rehabilitation programs rather than harsh sentences.
What is the Three Strikes Law?
Originally enacted in 1994, California’s three-strikes law is a sentencing scheme that results in a sentence of 25 years to life if the person has been convicted of three serious felonies or crimes. Serious crimes and felonies include but are not limited to murder, sex offenses, and the use of a dangerous weapon in a robbery of a residence. There have been many impacts based on this law but some of the preliminary impacts include fewer guilty pleas, more cases being prosecuted, and an increase in people who are held in county jail awaiting trial.
California’s Incarceration Rates
California’s incarceration rates are incredibly high due to growth in the rates of imprisonment in the past 40 years. The incarceration rate in California is about 239,000 which is 549 per every 100,000 who are locked up in jails, prisons, immigration detention, and juvenile facilities. These incarceration rates are almost three times higher than in the 1970’s. The problem that incarceration rates pose is that prison is overcrowded.
Why The Change?
Rehabilitation programs are becoming more and more prevalent due to the population favoring mental health treatment and opposing California’s death penalty. These new changes will also significantly reduce incarceration for Californians, save taxpayer dollars to improve public safety, and reduce racial inequalities.
The new laws that took effect on January 1st, 2022 requires prosecutors to acquire evidence to prove a crime was committed due to gang affiliation before adding sentence enhancements. And lastly, the last part to the proposed modifications were to reexamine a sentence after 25 years in prison which offers a gradual life without parole.