Vote no on Proposition 36

October 9, 2012

Leslie Halls

OPINION By LESLIE HALLS

Proposition 36 would revise the current Three Strikes law and would allow current convicted felons serving 25-life under Three Strikes to petition for a reduced sentence.

The Three Strikes law was passed in 1994 and shortly after its passage, crime in California dropped significantly and has remained at lower levels. Violent crimes have decreased by 18 percent and homicide decreased by 31 percent since Three Strikes’ inception. Prop 36 would modify the three strikes law to impose life sentence only when the new felony conviction is “serious or violent.”

Proponents of Prop 36 say that this would “make room for dangerous felons,” but the truth is only 6.6 percent of all prisoners in California are these “third strikers.” These are criminals so dangerous they are serving 25 to life sentences as charged by a District Attorney, as convicted by a jury, as imposed by a judge, and whose legal appeals have been denied.

As the widow of a former district attorney in Plumas County, I know it is very difficult to get felony convictions for murder. There is a tendency to plea bargain to a lesser crime and this automatically becomes a “conviction” for the district attorney’s office. It is regrettably an efficiency measure, because the courts are so clogged with cases.

There are some people who should never ever be let out. If the threat of punishment under Three Strikes has not been a deterrent, then perhaps keeping this 6.6 percent of the prison population incarcerated is a factor in reducing violent crime so substantially.

“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Vote no on Proposition 36.

Leslie Halls is a San Luis Obispo resident and the director of the San Luis Obispo County Builders Exchange.


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WiseGuy

Is it true that under Three Strikes some people have been sentenced to life in prison when their third strike was stealing a single meal’s worth of food, or less?


As I understand it, under the current Three Strikes law, there is very little room for common sense to prevail and many travesties of justice have been the result. That is not good law. We can do better. Prop 36 seems to be working in that direction, with a common sense approach.


Unfortunately, as we see, common sense isn’t so common, as the author of the above article makes clear with her weak, misleading challenge to what looks to be progress in both justice and eliminating wasteful spending.


WiseGuy

The author of this irrational, misleading, piece often speaks on local radio talk shows and continually projects an air of fear and insecurity that she seems to deal with by being a fear-monger, misanthropic and over-controlling.


She is also a paid propagandist for the building industry and will likely profit if we continue expanding and building more prisons unnecessarily. And the cost to the taxpayers remains staggering.


It’s heartening to see that so many people so quickly and easily understand that most of what she has written here adds up to total, self-serving B.S.


obispan

The cost to taxpayers is not “staggering” due to prison budgets. It is “staggering” due to the truly staggering insanity of spending money to degrade society thus filling the prisons and then blaming the prisons for having too much business. I’d love to see every cop and prison guard swinging a hammer or flipping a burger but don’t blame them for the necessity of their jobs.


r0y

This is much more insightful and thought-out. I can see your point, obispan, society has been degrading for the last 100 years or so. It really picked up in the late 60’s and is running full-throttle now.


I also think there are too many people put in for too small of an offense (possession, w/o trafficking, etc). Obviously this is a deep societal problem, especially in California.


r0y

Two ad hominem attacks in one morning? You must really have a dog in this fight. Hard to say, I don’t like ideologues of either side (yours or hers), and to insult the author with the very same tactics you accuse her of is rich in irony. I will read the proposition text myself and make my own decision, regardless of either of your “propagandist” comments.


But thanks for *your* brand of “fear and insecurity” – and thanks to the author for hers.


WiseGuy

rOy, I don’t agree with you regarding the “ad hominem” issue. Any character flaws I mention DO relate directly to the argument at hand and truly do seem to be a (flawed or weak) foundation for the author’s viewpoint.


As far as “my” supposed “fear and insecurity”, I simply don’t see what you are talking about. Where do YOU see this?


WiseGuy

The opinion piece above is terribly and shamefully misleading.


The author of this piece, Leslie Halls, provides absolutely NO evidence linking reduction in crime to the three strikes law. The types of crime she mentions have been reduced throughout the United States in states where there is NO three strikes law.


It looks like Leslie Halls has allowed over-reaction and emotions color her critical thinking and thus we have an opinion piece that assumes the readers will be suckers and go along with her irrational argument and destructive, expensive conclusions.


OnTheOtherHand

Our criminal system is far too expensive and inefficient. If we keep looking to lock everyone up as a solution for most forms of non-conforming social behavior, it won’t improve. I will be supporting Prop 36 even though it may cut a very few real criminals some undeserved slack. When we stop making major crimes of minor misbehavior and prosecuting people for them, we might be able to afford to be tougher about the more serious ones.


Slowerfaster

Leslie Halls ..Director of SLO County Builders exchange = Right Wing Flack Group.


Don’t be BULLIED by TEABAGGER extremists.


They support a PRISON-INDUSTRIAL Complex that makes them millionaires while incarcerating thousands of non-violent drug offenders.

It is all about the MONEY with these GHOULS of society !


r0y

Yeah, and for others it’s all about trigger words, conditioning and propaganda. Bullying is bullying.


The irony you obviously missed in your post here.


standup

Read the proposition people! This is only proposed to not put some previous felon that has two strikes back into a life sentence for a non-violent crime or misdemeanor. We can’t afford this anymore. You want it liberals, you pay for it!


Structure

Choice: stop putting so many people in prison and keeping them in there, or pay higher taxes for more prisons and guards.


Stop expecting the tooth fairy to pay for your wishes.


Frank Courser

Leslie Hall has left out a few facts that can easily be checked. Crime in California was falling two years before Three Strikes was enacted. Crime dropped in every state in the nation during the same period. In fact strike-less states enjoyed the same drop in crime without spending a dime! Strike-less New York saw a 23% greater decrease in violent crime than California! California will spend $19.2 billion in longer sentences under Three Strikes adding to the $10 billion dollar corrections budget each and every year! More money than we spend on higher education and the highest corrections budget in the nation! She fails to state that there are 32,000 second strikers that could be convicted of such minor crimes as simple drug possession, shoplifting or receiving stolen property. 25% of the inmate population are strikers 2nd and 3rd. Prop 36 simply says DA’s can no longer use crimes such as simple drug possession,shoplifting or receiving stolen property to trigger a life sentence. Each costing $1.25 million dollars! I am voting YES on 36 and not buying into misinformation or fear mongering! YES on 36


Bert

Good work, Frank. This opinion piece is just that, an opinion, but doesn’t hold water to the facts and research that show no correlation between fear of punishment and severity of penalty. In other words, the three strikes law does nothing to deter crime. The only issue I would have with Prop 36 would be violent, sexual, or “serious” getting off early, but according to the end of the second paragraph this isn’t an issue.


r0y

I’d love some links or references, Frank! I did find an interesting tidbit on costs:

Second strikers released to parole in 2004 served 43 months on average. The additional time in prison for second strikers costs the state approximately $60,000 per striker.


In addition, inmates serving life sentences for a third strike conviction are in prison for longer than would have been the case in the absence of the Three Strikes law, particularly those whose current offense is nonserious or nonviolent. The cost of their additional time in prison because of Three Strikes is difficult to estimate because many of them would have returned to prison even in the absence of Three Strikes for new offenses or parole violations. (emphasis mine)


Your figures are higher than the LAO analysis, but it does not change the fact that incarcerating more people longer will always cost more than incarcerating fewer for shorter times. That’s a given.


So I was poking around, looking for your source data… First, there is a LOT of news and info websites that all just cite each other, typical in our lazy journalistic world and often giving the impression that the “facts” are wide-spread, when there was one original source used somewhere along the “journalism” food chain (I hate calling most of these places journalism, it really is not anymore).


As a rule of thumb, I have a red flag go up when I hear someone abuse the word “facts” – it’s an ideological tactic and often points to misconstrued data and such.


The best source I found online was the Legislative Analysis Office which takes a measured approach, analyzing the various sources that the news and special interest groups use (often misconstrued, as mentioned earlier). It will somewhat agree with your point, but with much lower figures and estimates, based on the historical data of the past studies and predictions.


The best citation (please read the whole link, it’s very informative) for me was:

Little More Than Half of Strikers Are Convicted of Nonserious/Nonviolent Offenses.

Based on information provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)-formerly the Department of Corrections, 44 percent of all inmate strikers were convicted of a serious or violent current offense, while 56 percent were convicted of nonserious or nonviolent offenses. It is likely that these figures somewhat under-report the percentage of strikers whose current offense activity was actually serious or violent. This could occur in some cases because district attorneys choose to prosecute strikers for nonserious, nonviolent offenses that may be easier to prove in court knowing that the Three Strikes sentence enhancement will still apply. The extent to which this occurs is unknown.
(emphasis mine).


I’ve read similar analyses elsewhere regarding district attorneys and attorneys general where the sentence is downgraded either in plea or some other reason. We should to take this into account when dealing with this issue.


Rawhide

I most certaily agree with you Leslie…

Vote no on Proposition 36