Three Strikes Laws (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
Criminal statutes that mandate increased sentences for repeat offenders, usually after three serious crimes.
Beginning in the early 1990s, states began to enact mandatory sentencing laws for repeat criminal offenders. These statutes came to be known as "three strikes laws," because they were invoked when offenders committed their third offense. By 2003 over half the states and the federal government had enacted three strikes laws. The belief behind the laws was that getting career criminals off the streets was good public policy. However, the laws have their critics, who charge that sentences are often disproportionate to the crimes committed and that incarceration of three strikes inmates for 25 years to life would drive up correctional costs. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld three strikes laws and has rejected the argument that they amount to CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT.
The state of Washington passed the first three strikes law in 1993. Anyone convicted of three separate violent felonies must be sentenced to life in prison with no chance for PAROLE. The state of California followed, in 1994, by enacting a three strikes law that mandates a sentence of 25 years to life for a third felony conviction. Unlike Washington, the California law counts nonviolent felonies, such as BURGLARY and theft, as "strike" offenses. The popularity of the three strikes law in...
(The entire section is 3174 words.)
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