California needs to repeal the Three Strikes Law, which has lengthened sentences of more than 33,000 people, including more than 7,400 whose latest conviction was neither serious nor violent, according to an op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times.
The authors maintained the best solution is to repeal the law because “keeping people in prison for longer periods has not made us safer.” Adding, “Instead, these failed strategies have devastated communities of color while stripping us of the resources necessary to invest in strategies proven to prevent and reduce crime.”
The article cites the case of Leandro Andrade, sentenced to 50-years-to-life for stealing $153 worth of videotapes. The D.A. could have “charged him with two counts of petty theft,” the Aug. 12 article said.
Andrade could have been charged with one or two counts of felony “petty theft with a prior,” which carries a maximum sentence of three years and eight months. But the D.A. charged him with two counts, seeking an enhancement under the Three Strikes Law and a 25-years-to-life sentence.
The California Court of Appeals recently ruled that district attorneys are required to pursue all three-strike enhancements. This action stripped D.A.s of their prosecutorial discretion to reduce sentence recommendations. The article urges the California Supreme Court to overturn that ruling.
Data from Kern County show that over “40% of the prison population had their sentences doubled by a prior strike,” said the article.
Kern County has one of the highest conviction rates and usage rates of the Three Strikes Law, and has the highest homicide rate in the state since 2016, the article stated.
“…[t]he research has shown that lengthier prison sentences actually increased recidivism rates and make it harder for formerly incarcerated people to reenter society,” said the opinion article.
California demographics show that 80% of people sentenced under the Three Strike Law are people of color. The article also said that the disparities are even greater for people sentenced for a third-strike when younger than age 26 at the time of their offense.
The article highlighted recently paroled former San Quentin resident Allan Mac-Intosh, sentenced to 25-to-life for possessing a firearm. There are efforts to resentence some people sentenced under the law, but there is not a universal resentencing policy in California.
Authors of the article were Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Berkeley School of Law; Gil Garcetti, a former Los Angeles district attorney, and Miriam Aroni Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor and director of Fair and Just Prosecution.