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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Parole Opportunities for Life Sentences

three strikes law
Criminal justice reform in California is of vital importance, evident by the State considering and passing laws to reduce jail and prison populations. To that end, several measures have been adopted and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in recent years. One of the subjects of particular focus is the controversial three-strike law as it pertains to nonviolent offenders.

California's Three Strikes Law requires that a defendant who is convicted of any felony with two or more strikes on their record, be mandated to a state prison term of at least 25 years to life. The nature of the third crime – violent vs. nonviolent – or the previous two are of little consequence—three-strikes and you are out!

The passing of Proposition 57, or the California Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements Initiative, allows for parole and good behavior opportunities for felons serving time for nonviolent crimes and allowing judges – instead of prosecutors – to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court. Fundamentally, Prop 57 weakens the Three Strikes Law.

Parole for Prisoners Facing Life Sentences


The 2016 ballot measure weakening the Three Strikes Law means that as many as 4,000 California inmates serving life sentences are eligible for parole, according to the Associated Press (AP). The State will start creating regulations this coming January to decide the terms of eligibility.

Michael Romano, director of Three Strikes and Justice Advocacy Projects at Stanford Law School, points out that some non-violent offenders are serving life for crimes as petty as stealing a bicycle or shoplifting shampoo, the article reports. While other states have similar laws on the books, Romano notes that California’s "was certainly the most aggressive state in the country."

"Over the decades, California has realized that the majority of people swept up under Three Strikes are not serious and not violent, many of whom have committed really petty crimes," said Romano. "They are disproportionately African American, they are disproportionately mentally ill, and, perhaps most surprising of all, they're disproportionately low risk to commit a new crime if released, according to the state's own risk evaluations. This is further acknowledgement of those truths."

 

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