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3 Strikes Law: Cruel and Unusual to the Taxpayers?(14 posts)

3 Strikes Law: Cruel and Unusual to the Taxpayers?Me Dot Org
Mar 5, 2003 5:25 PM
In two 5-4 decisions today, the Supreme Court upheld California's "3 strikes"(and you're out) law.

If you're familiar with these laws, the law enables prosecutors to ask for much stiffer penalties for repeat offenders.

In the first case, a man was given 25 years in prison for stealing a set of golf clubs. (We take our golf very seriously here, folks.)

In the second case, a man was given 50 years in prison for stealing 9 videotapes from 2 K-mart stores (he admits he's a heroin addict whole stole to feed his habit).That works out to 5 1/2 years per videotape (Guess I'll never complain about a rewind charge again.)

The justices in the majority held that the states were give great leeway in determining an appropriate sentece.

The justices in the minority (who read their dissention from the bench, very unusual) said that they believed that it did constiture cruel and unusual punishment.

Forgetting just a moment about the cruel and unusual punishment aspect, I'd like to point out that (at $50,000 a year) it will cost the taxpayers of California a minimum of $2,500,000 to incacerate this man for the theft of 9 videotapes. If this man stole $75 worth of videotapes a day (He stole $153.54 from the two stores in two days) 7 days a week, 365 days a year, it would take him over 91 years to steal $2,500,000 worth of video tapes.

California is sitting on a huge budget deficit (please, this not a flame/blame Gray Davis/deregulation/Enron, leave it for another discussion). Isn't there a better, more cost-efficient way to deal with the theft of 9 videotapes than a $2.5 million prison sentence?
Why not "Five Personal or Two Technical Fouls and You're Out"?czardonic
Mar 5, 2003 5:46 PM
You've got to be suspicious of any law that draws arbitrary lines based on sports conventions.
I think the Yellow & Red Cards are better ;-)Alpedhuez55
Mar 5, 2003 7:00 PM
Actually, I think I agree with you on this one Czar. I think the ttree strikes is pretty arbitrary. How about tougher sentences on the first two strikes?

Mike Y.
How about the death penalty for video shoplifting?mickey-mac
Mar 6, 2003 6:25 AM
What's scary is that I can picture some hard-line death penalty proponents arguing that the death penalty would be preferable to a long prison sentence because of the cost of keep a three-striker alive for 25 years to life. Fortunately, I think my fellow Californians will see the light when they weigh the financial burden of this law against the minimal benefit that is realized by locking people away for life for the unarmed and nonviolent theft of pizzas, golf clubs, or videotapes. Finally, but not surprisingly, isn't it a bit frightening that two members of the court have the opinion that no prison sentence constitute cruel and unusual punishment?
Ah, the messiness of a representative democracymoneyman
Mar 6, 2003 6:56 AM
Who to blame for such a law? The lawmakers, of course. And of course the citizens who elected them. The lawmakers create legislation that is deemed important by their constituents, which helps insure that the legislators get re-elected. If the issue was not important to the populace, the lawmakers would not have passed the legislation. Is it fair? Not, apparently the way it worked out and the way you described it. I am sure it was made for the violent criminals who work the judicial system with probation, parole and plea bargaining. Instead, it captures the hapless drug addict stealing videotapes. The law of unintended consequences supercedes the California legislature.

Don't like the law? Call your representative and demand it be changed. A bit more difficult in practice, but that is how change takes place.

Good concept. Bad practice.

Ah, the messiness of a representative democracymickey-mac
Mar 6, 2003 8:23 AM
"Who to blame for such a law? The lawmakers, of course. And of course the citizens who elected them."

Unfortunately, we're directly to blame for this one. Three strikes was the product of the California initiative system, under which the law was enacted by direct vote of the good people of the state. We can't blame "those bums" for this one.
I swear to clean up this mess128
Mar 6, 2003 8:47 AM
Candidates perrenially whip up the people in to a frothy anti-crime fervor to be the candidate who is gonna 'do something about this mess.' Sure the people vote for them, but there is a tradition of using the 'tough-on-crime' position to secure office even when the 'crime problem' is a touch manufactured and the 'toughness' is slightly irrational. Not to say I'm not tough on crime now!

And I know a h*ll of a lot of judges want to repeal much of the 'sentencing guidlines' trends and return discretion to the bench.
more cost effectivemohair_chair
Mar 6, 2003 7:35 AM
The most cost effective solution is not to let him out after his first strike. Or less effective, not let him out after his second strike. That way, we save the court costs.

Funny how you forget to mention those first two strikes, preferring to concentrate on what you consider absurd. Do you even know what they are? What if one was murder?

Before you get all worked up about how we can put a guy in jail for life for stealing videotapes, ask yourself why he didn't ask himself that same question before he committed the crime. Three strikes is not a secret.

And let's remember, you have to get three FELONY CONVICTIONS. That's not easy to do. You really have to work at it. Imagine what else this guy stole or did that he was never caught or charged for.

I'm sure glad you are willing to give away the inventory of someone else's shop to pay off criminals so we don't have to lock them up. Maybe you can invite criminals to come live at your house. You can feed them and clothe them and let them babysit your kids. They can even go down to Blockbuster and get you free videos. What a deal.
There is ...sacheson
Mar 6, 2003 8:19 AM
... but the ACLU won't let us chop of the left hand of repeat offenders anymore.

OK ... that was a joke. Hope you saw the humor.
What's the alternative?DougSloan
Mar 6, 2003 9:06 AM
Of all the felony convictions in California, and of all third of "Three Strikes" convictions, of course people will jump on the most absurd to make the arguments against the law, distracting from the hundreds of others where you have three time car jackers, rapists, or whatever.

I would feel much more comfortable about the law if it were limited to violent crimes. However, property crimes can't be ignored. I think what this law attempts to do is to be a deterrent. Surely, if you have any brains at all, after two felony convictions of *anything* you'd get your act together and try really, really hard not to commit any more felonies. We're not talking about accidents here. We are talking about intentional, serious (felonies) crimes. Common sense would also tell us that if someone is actually convicted of three felonies, they probably got away with a few more.

At some point, I'm not sure the cost of incarceration is relevant. Bad people either need to be rehabilitated or removed from society. At three felonies, they have probably successfully demonstrated that they won't be rehabilitated. They are a proven menace, and should be treated that way.

What I just do not understand is the habitual criminal. What can we possibly do to deter them from repeated offenses? What does it take? You know that after the second conviction, someone, the judge, the guy's lawyer, other inmates, or just from the media, someone told the guy, "Do this again, and you are going away for a long, long, time."

What's the alternative?

Mar 6, 2003 11:18 AM
The whole legal/penal industry is disgracefully (criminally?) sexist, with an outrageous gender imbalance that begs for reform. A topic for another thread...

Putting away someone for a longterm basis for something relatively petty is draconian, and a burden on me, Joe Taxpayer, and my family. School programs are being cut for lack of money, while the government says they need more money so they can build more prisons to house an ever-expanding prison population. This is not the kind of society I see as having "the best system in the world".

Sure you have good points about personal responsibility. For many reasons, some people just don't get it. But there has to be a grey area between having a revolving door and one that is locked up forever.
how about exile? nmDougSloan
Mar 6, 2003 11:28 AM
to Iraq? nmFunston
Mar 6, 2003 12:50 PM
Alternative: Let the punishment fit the crime.czardonic
Mar 6, 2003 11:36 AM
It is patently unjust to hand out long prison sentences based on the presumption of guilt for crimes people "probably got away with". If they are convicted of stealing golf clubs or video tapes, that is what they should be sentenced for.

As you say, if people had any brains, they'd wouldn't commit that third felony. Well, I'd argue that if they had any brains they likely wouldn't have commited the first one, and certainly wouldn't have commited the second one.

Bad people should be rehabilitated or removed from society, as dictated by the nature of the crime. The problem is, our current system does neither. Nobody is rehabilitated, and rapists recieve shorter sentences than drug users. Just about everyone comes out a greater threat to society than when they went in.

As much as it may satisfy a great many people sense of justice, sending non-violent criminals to prison is counter-productive for society. We need more creative ways to make sure that these people pay for their crimes by contributing to society. Violent crinimals should be seperated from society as necessary or indefinitely, but under conditions where they too can actually pay their dept to society rather than running up a greater bill.