Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Hot Topic (11/12): Three Strikes Law

Posted by on Nov. 12, 2009 at 1:40 AM
  • 38 Replies

From NPR:

California's three strikes law has imposed some very long sentences on some very dangerous people.

A third strike carries a sentence of 25 years to life and that sentence can be imposed for any felony, not just a violent one. Some people have challenged the law — but the results have been mixed.

The Leandro Andrade Case

Take, for example, Leandro Andrade.

His last offense was stealing $153 worth of videotapes from Kmart stores in San Bernardino, according to Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine.

Now, Andrade had had his run-ins with the law. He was a drug addict, and he had committed some residential burglaries years before. So when he stole those videos, it was a third strike, which could mean 25 years to life in prison.

But because Andrade grabbed the videos from two different Kmarts, he was prosecuted for two third strikes. As a result, says Chemerinsky, Andrade was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 50 years.

Chemerinsky represented Andrade before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed that a sentence of 50 years to life for shoplifting was cruel and unusual punishment.

But the Supreme Court overturned that ruling on a 5-to-4 vote. The majority found that Andrade's sentence was not disproportionate because there was still the possibility of parole — though he won't be eligible until he's 87 years old.

The Stanford Clinic

"There's no question it was a setback; the result was very unfortunate," says Stanford Law professor Lawrence Marshall.

Marshall has established a clinic where Stanford law students work to win the release of nonviolent third strikers. So far, they have persuaded state courts to release five men from prison.

"The judges said that had they understood at the time of sentencing what we were now explaining about the nature of the offense and the background of the offender, that they should have recognized that it was a case that was outside the spirit of three strikes," Marshall says.

The Stanford clinic takes very few cases and the staff picks them very carefully. They haven't represented anyone whose previous strikes included a violent crime, and the third strikes are always for minor offenses.

Marshall wants to show the public what he views as the irrationality of the law. He cites an example.

"You've stolen some socks from a store — and that's a real case of ours — that were valued at a few dollars," he says. "We are going to now imprison you at a cost of $40,000 to $50,000 a year to make sure you don't steal some more socks."

Marshall hopes that publicizing such cases will lead to a change in the law.

But three strikes has become so entrenched in California's criminal justice system that the political will to change it just isn't there, according to Mike Vitello, a law professor at the University of the Pacific and an expert on the three strikes law.

"Most Democrats lack the courage to take the issue on," he says. "The governor indicated some willingness to do it and then he backed off. And I think the Republicans are totally cynical. They are waiting for the day when the Democrats are able to get some kind of sentencing reform. And then if anything goes wrong, they will accuse the Democrats of being soft on crime."

The Isaac Ramirez Case

One man serving a three strikes sentence decided he needed a miracle.

Isaac Ramirez has been out of prison for seven years. He now works full-time at his church in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, where he's a lay pastor and in charge of facilities.

In 1996 Ramirez took a VCR worth about $200 from a Sears store. He walked out with it in broad daylight. He got caught, handed over the merchandise and admitted having done something "stupid." Unfortunately, he had taken some stuff from stores a few years before. He knew that was going to matter. He never dreamed how much.

"I mean, I've never hurt anybody. But I still broke the law and I understood I was gonna do some time," he says. "How much, I didn't know."

Since taking that VCR was a third strike, he was sentenced to 25 years to life.

While Ramirez was in prison, he rediscovered the faith of his childhood.

"Having the word of God before me, I was able to obtain hope and understanding," he says. "It began to change me while I was in prison."

Ramirez's path to salvation led straight to the prison law library.

"I had to study both state law and federal law," he says. "I was very blessed in learning how to do both."

Ramirez filed his own appeals, and there were many setbacks. But in 2002, a federal court finally ordered him released from prison. He reunited with his family and began working at his church. Then, it was the state's turn to appeal and argue that he belonged back behind bars. Ramirez didn't have money for a lawyer, but he decided he didn't need one.

"God had brought me this far, so I knew that he would complete it," he says.

So, Ramirez presented his own case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Oh, that was an experience," he says. "We had half the church there. I couldn't keep them away."

Ramirez needed the support because he'd been planning to claim cruel and unusual punishment. Just a few months earlier, though, the Supreme Court had shot down that argument in the Andrade case. Ramirez, however, stuck to it.

He claimed he was more deserving than Andrade.

"First of all, Andrade has more prison priors than I do, No. 1," Ramirez said. "He was on parole when he committed two additional crimes."

Several times the judges referred to Ramirez in the third person, not realizing it was the man standing before them. Judge Andrew Kleinfeld didn't figure it out till the end of the hearing.

"I had been thinking that you were represented, I hadn't realized you were pro se. But you've done a fine job for yourself," Kleinfeld said.

Ramirez did such a fine job, he won his case and remains a free man.

He says that when he was in prison, he met a lot of men who really did belong there.

In fact, everybody NPR spoke to for this story thinks there needs to be a three strikes law, that some people should be put away for a long time — if not forever. The federal appeals court decided Ramirez wasn't one of those. But he so easily could have been.

* * *

Do you think the three strikes law is fair?  Are you in favor of this law?

The three strikes law can put a non-violent offender behind bars for 25 years to life.  Do you think this is a good use of prison resources? 

What are your thoughts?

 





Please join:
 Advice for Moms        The CafeMom  Newcomers Club The CafeMom Newcomers Club
Kids, Fun & Photos! Kids, Fun & Photos!    Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics
The Cafe                        CafeMom Hollywood

by on Nov. 12, 2009 at 1:40 AM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
smcclure2005
by Member on Nov. 12, 2009 at 5:02 AM

I think it is fair and I do support this law. If you are a grown person and you have been in trouble with the law you should so know not to do it again. Not to mention they knew what they were doing was against the law. If you continue I think your ass should go to jail for how ever long they say. My advice is don't  do it the first time much less over and over. Do I think it is good for the resources..I look at it like this it is no worse then the resources supplying cable to them. I think they should live like the prisoners in Tent City.  That is just my opinion.

IraqiVetWife
by Member on Nov. 12, 2009 at 6:50 AM

I love it. If you are relaaesed and given the Freedom to roam with other law abiding citizens then you should also abide and keep the peace.


This law shows that they are serious about crime and hope people will start to see how serious by following through with punishment.


If you cant keep yourself out of trouble then maybe they will be able to find the cause for your mental misfunction in jail and assist you with getting proper treatment.



possummom
by on Nov. 12, 2009 at 6:56 AM

sorry but if you break the law...you pay the price. i support the three strikes.

                 

bakebiscotti
by on Nov. 12, 2009 at 9:15 AM

I don't think mandatory sentencing is ever a good idea. It takes away from the individual circumstance and ties the hands of judges who actually hear the extenuating circumstances and can do nothing to act on them

rotPferd
by Silver Member on Nov. 12, 2009 at 9:41 AM

I don't think stealing video tapes (which are obsolete these days) and socks warrants 25 yrs or more in prison.

"You won, alright? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. That's what Ceasar did. He's not going around saying 'I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it'. The history of the world is not about making friends. You had better weapons and you massacred them. End of story."  Spike

Della529
by on Nov. 12, 2009 at 10:04 AM

I think common-sense and logical thought processes have flown right out the window, especially when it comes to legislators passing these ridiculous laws.  It's all become political.

WildKat
by Bronze Member on Nov. 12, 2009 at 10:09 AM

I think it should only be mandatory in the cases of violent criminals.  Sex offenders should not walk free so that pickpocketers can be permanently imprisoned. 

Peace,

Kat

luckcharm
by Bronze Member on Nov. 12, 2009 at 10:40 AM


Quoting bakebiscotti:

I don't think mandatory sentencing is ever a good idea. It takes away from the individual circumstance and ties the hands of judges who actually hear the extenuating circumstances and can do nothing to act on them

I agree with this.   

While I believe there are a lot of crimes out there  that the 3 strikes law is appropriate for,  there are a lot of people affected by it that punishing them to the extreme this law does isn't worth it.


 

lbranta
by Bronze Member on Nov. 12, 2009 at 11:00 AM

I agree with this. 

Quoting Della529:

I think common-sense and logical thought processes have flown right out the window, especially when it comes to legislators passing these ridiculous laws.  It's all become political.


mistynights234
by on Nov. 12, 2009 at 11:37 AM

Yup, they put a guy for stealing video tapes and socks into jail for 25 years to life. The tax payers pay 50,000 plus a year to take care of him.  

Then we have the convicted pediphile down the street, he gets to live his life.  He has rights.  The state pays for "therapy" for him, welfare pays for housing and everyone around him pays for new alarms for there houses and kids arent allowed to play outside anymore........sounds like a win win situation to me. 

I say let the crime fit the time.  If they would stop letting violent criminals out in the first place they wouldnt need this law.  Give someone like Ramiriez therapy and housing.  Give him a chance to be rehabilited into society.  It would be cheaper to do that then keeping him locked up. 

Yeah, our society has some pretty big problems that really need to be addressed. 

Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)