Sociology Index

Three Strikes Law

Three-strikes laws are enacted by state governments which mandate state courts to impose harsher sentences on habitual offenders who are convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses. Selective Incapacitation is provided for under dangerous offender legislation. General deterrence can be defined as the impact of the threat of legal punishment on the public at large. Traffic law enforcement influences driving behaviour through two processes: general deterrence and Specific Deterrence.

The three-strikes law borrows from baseball, a game in which batter is permitted two strikes before striking out on the third. The three-strikes law increases the prison sentences of persons convicted of a felony and who have been previously convicted of two or more serious felonies. The three-strikes law limits the ability of such offenders to receive a punishment other than a life sentence. In the United States, habitual offender laws, referred to as three-strikes laws, were enacted and implemented on March 7, 1994 and are part of the United States Justice Department's Anti-Violence Strategy. - Anti-Violence Strategy, Department of Justice. -www.justice.gov.

Twenty-eight states have three-strikes law. A person accused under such laws is referred to in a few states as a persistent offender. Missouri uses the unique term "prior and persistent offender to refer to three-strikes law. The application of the three-strikes law in California, considered harsh, has been a subject of controversy.

The first real three-strikes law was passed in 1993, when Washington voters approved Initiative 593 when their voters passed Proposition 184 by an overwhelming majority. The initiative proposed to the voters had the title of Three Strikes and You're Out, referring to de facto life imprisonment after being convicted of three violent or serious felonies which are listed under California Penal Code section 1192.7. The substantive provisions of Proposition 184 are codified in California Penal Code Sections 667(e)(2)(A)(ii) and 1170.12(c)(2)(A)(ii).

Dangerousness and Incapacitation: A Predictive Evaluation of Sentencing Policy Reform in California - Kathleen Auerhahn - Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice, National Institute of Justice, United States. This predictive evaluation of sentencing policy reform in California concludes that the State's "Three Strikes" law will not be effective in incapacitating dangerous offenders, and it recommends alternatives to guide policymakers in constructing and implementing sentencing policies that will effectively target and incapacitate dangerous offenders. Abstract: In discussing the history of efforts to predict "dangerousness," this study notes the limited success of these endeavors. Sentencing innovations such as Three Strikes and Truth in Sentencing aim to select the most dangerous offenders for lengthy incarceration, the net effect of these laws may be a reduction in the aggregate level of dangerous offenders in the prison population, as more dangerous offenders who are not subject to mandatory minimum sentences are released to make room for "Three Strikes" and other mandatorily sentenced offenders. The first two of the scenarios accept the fact of an aging prison population and examine ways to focus the Three Strikes law more narrowly on particular types of offenders (those who have shown a capacity for violence either in the past or in the current offense). The third alternative would implement a program of geriatric release in California prisons.