The California secretary of state approved the request to petition filed by a Half Moon Bay resident to add an initiative to the November 2016 ballot (source). Currently, California's three strikes law requires sentences of at least 25 years for those convicted of three violently felonies (source). The proposed initiative would reduce the number of crimes that count toward California's three strikes law and make it easier for prisoners to petition judges the get their sentences reconsidered. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, the proposed initiative could save the state several million dollars a year in prison expenses, but cost counties around $100 million a year because offenders would go to jail instead of prison. (For those wondering, jails are locally-operated short-term facilities, while prisons are state or federal long-term facilities.)
We've learned in class that individuals or groups of citizens can get their own propositions on state ballots, thereby directly influencing the state government and elections. We are also currently learning about the judiciary, and the necessary balance between consistency and discretion in enforcing the law.
What do you think of the three strikes law? What do you perceive to be the pros and cons? Do you think this grass root movement will be effective? How will softening it change the balance between consistency and discretion in the judicial system, if at all? How does changing the three strikes law contribute to the overall trend of prison and sentencing reform?
photo: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press