The fallacy of three strikes laws

Kidnapping; Robbery; and Any offense punishable by 10 years or more which includes an element of the use of force or involves a significant risk of force The statue also specifically excludes certain felonies such as unarmed robbery offenses or arsons which posed no threat to human life. However, in those cases, the burden is on the defendant to show that the crimes did not involve threats to use a dangerous weapon and that no threat of death or bodily injury was involved.

The fallacy of three strikes laws

Echoing the anti-incarceration consensus within criminology, Skolnick asserts that life without parole for thrice-convicted violent felons is a bad policy idea, a "wild pitch.

In there were about 35, new court commitments to federal prisons. Less than 6 percent of federal prisoners were sentenced for violent crimes. About 30 percent of thepersons committed to state prisons were sentenced for violent crimes. If 10 percent of all prisoners sentenced for violent crimes were on their "third strike," then the law would have affected some 4, persons in a corrections population of nearly 4.

These laws have put about three-quarters of all convicts -- over 3 million criminals -- on the streets under "supervision" that in most cases means a monthly chat with an overworked, underpaid probation or parole agent.

Within three years of their release, persons convicted of property crimes are about as likely to commit a violent crime as persons convicted of violent crimes in the first place. And please, no more nonsense about "intermediate sanctions.

Meanwhile, repeat criminals who beat the system inflict hundreds of billions of dollars in damages on their victims and society each year. Skolnick may think the Polly Klass tragedy is mere sensationalism, but all the data show that the system routinely permits known predatory criminals to plea bargain their way to lesser charges at the front end, only to give them numerous get-out-of-jail-free cards at the back end.

In thirty-four states released more thanprisoners combined, 90 percent of them to community-based supervision.

About half of these offenders had served a year or less in prison before their releases. On average, they served 35 percent of their time in confinement. This average held pretty well for all types of offenders. Thus, murderers received a maximum sentence of 20 years but served under 8 years below 40 percent of their sentences in prison, while drug traffickers organized traffickers, not mere possessors received an average of 4 years and served about 14 months 35 percent of their sentence before release.

The state-level data paint the same bleak picture in finer detail. In New Jersey, for example, the typical prisoner had 9 arrests, and 6 convictions, committed over a dozen serious crimes excluding all drug crimes in the year prior to his incarceration, had about a chance of victimizing again after his release, and was most likely to victimize poor and minority citizens.

No Americans suffer more from permissive penal practices than the law-abiding minority citizens of inner city neighborhoods. Middle-class and affluent Americans are spending record amounts on private security devices, rent-a-cops, and other measures intended to make the environments in which they live relatively impervious to crime.

Instead, they rely mainly on a "justice system" that virtually invites the criminally deviant to prey upon the truly disadvantaged.

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Like most criminologists, Skolnick obscures the public protection value of imprisonment behind criminologically de rigueur rhetoric about the steep increase in the rate of incarceration, the U. Nor does he note that only 6 percent of state prisoners are non-violent first-time offenders.

The federal system, in which prisoners must serve at least 85 percent of their time behind bars, consists largely of "non-violent" drug dealers with multiple convictions. My Princeton colleague, Ethan Nadelmann, has made a number of powerful arguments for decriminalizing drugs.

But most criminologists who balk at mandatory prison terms for drug merchants lack the courage of their criminological convictions. I agree with Skolnick that it is irrational to wait until career criminals are drifting into their less crime-prone years before slapping them with long sentences.

Wilson and others made that case years ago. But there are at least four other considerations. First, the differences among the criminal classes in prison today are not that wide. Ask the Massachusetts authorities who recently got burnt by a year-old released prisoner who murdered again.

California and dozens of other states are moving in this direction. Of course, when pressed most criminologists want only "violent" crimes to count as a "strike" -- major drug felonies, carjacking at knifepoint, etc. These folks have to stop decriminalizing things without admitting it, and without telling the rest of us why.

This goes especially for all their hypocritical cheers for gun control. New Jersey, like many states, has dozens of tough gun laws. Would those who want more restrictions on guns also favor making serious gun-law violations a "strike"? Fourth, society has a right not only to protect itself from convicted criminals but to express its moral outrage at their acts by, among other things, keeping them behind bars.

For example, what is the right moral posture when it comes to cases like the year-old man recently sentenced to life without parole for the murder of civil rights worker Medgar Evers? Skolnick and most other criminologists are sure that prison is not the answer.

But what, precisely, is the question?

The fallacy of three strikes laws

But if the question is what can protect the public from violent and repeat criminals, then prison is a very good answer indeed.The California three strikes law is tough and dumb, and anyone remotely familiar with the criminal justice system understands that.

According to DiIulio, I and other criminologists are out of touch with the concerns of middle class Americans.

Three Strikes Laws in Different States | LegalMatch Law Library

The following text was taken from a March 13, , memorandum to all United States Attorneys from Assistant Attorney General Jo Ann Harris (Criminal Division) on the subject of the "Three Strikes" law.

the 25 other three-strikes laws combined. The chronically loose link between The Zero-Sum Fallacy A second feature of the recent politics of punishment also concerns the relationship between the symbolic and the operational aspects of penal law.

Wobbler laws, or crimes which can be either misdemeanors or felonies, are very important to three strikes laws. If a defendant has two previous felonies on record and commits a crime which is considered a "wobbler," the court .

In other words, these can count as strikes unless a defendant proves otherwise. State Laws and Controversies. The State of Washington was the first to enact a "Three Strikes" law in Since then, more than half of the states, in addition to the federal government, have enacted three strikes laws.

The Washington State Three-Strikes Law It is difficult to determine whether the three-strikes law in Washington is an effective form of legislation.

Sentencing Enhancement—"Three Strikes" Law | JM | Department of Justice