SACRAMENTO (FinalCall.com) – Hundreds of people rallied at the California State Capitol Mar. 28 for “Beyond Prisons Day” to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Three Strikes law and to generate support for its reform.
California voters approved the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” initiative in 1994, hoping it would help eradicate violent crime by enhancing sentencing for persons convicted of a third serious or violent felony.
The demonstrators raised questions of unfairness and fiscal responsibility related to the edict, and presented Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger with a solution to the overcrowding of prisons by releasing non-violent offenders.
The protestors included four busloads from Southern California and approximately 100 members of Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes (FACTS), the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) and more than 200 “Striker” loved ones from San Diego, Orange County, the Inland Empire and Victorville, organizers informed.
The event, convened on the Capitol’s West Steps, also served to address inadequate prisoner healthcare and analyze what impact Three Strikes has had on violence and crime.
To help make their point, Ms. Silva informed, mothers, wives and loved ones of Strikers carried posters displaying their photos. There were also three nine-by-eight walls of Strikers, each citing the reasons for their life sentences–a few of them shoplifting, drug possession and attempted burglary of vacant dwelling.
Under the Three Strikes law, serious and violent offenses include murder or voluntary manslaughter; mayhem; and rape (where it is accomplished against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another). The Full Disclosure Network reports that, according to Bill Jones, former California Assemblyman and author of the Three Strikes law, its success can be measured by the 50 percent drop in crime since it was enacted; the exodus of Parolees to other states; the billions of dollars saved by deterring crime; the reduction in projected prison population and the elimination of plea bargaining.
Three Strikes reformers disagree. “It’s been 13 years since the passage of Three Strikes and prisons are filled to almost 200 percent capacity, and one prisoner dies very week for lack of medical attention,” stated Geri Silva, Executive Director of FACTS.
Ms. Silva continued, “For those who don’t consider the human suffering behind the stats, consider this: 24,730 non-violent Strikers serving 10-, 15- and the outrageous 25-to-life terms costing taxpayers $1,070,314,400.00 per year–over one billion dollars that could be used to educate, provide healthcare, drug treatment, build housing, provide jobs, job training, enrich the lives of many thousands of people and hundreds of communities. Everyone loses except those who profit from ‘crime control.’”
Three Strikes reformers lost their ballot initiative (Proposition 66) to Amend the Three Strikes Law to target violent/serious felonies only, but vowed to continue the fight.