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The Madera Tribune

Prop. 36: déjá vu all over again

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webmaster | 10/10/12

Many states have so-called three-strikes laws, as does California. The law says if one has committed two serious crimes, and one then commits a third crime, the miscreant can face a long sentence — 25 years to life for that wrongdoing. That third crime need not be especially serious, nor need it be violent.

And, there lies the reason a group called The Committee for Three Strikes Reform has launched Proposition 36, which would mandate that a felon’s third strike be serious.

Backers say “the original intent and core purpose of the Three Strikes law is to keep dangerous and violent criminals behind bars.”

Present and former district attorneys and other law-enforcement officials favor Prop. 36 because they say it is unnecessarily severe on nonviolent criminals — mainly drug criminals — instead of focusing on the worse crimes.

But many Californians may have forgotten about another Prop. 36 — the one passed by 61 percent of the voters in 2000. It essentially said that drug criminals could agree to undergo treatment at state expense in lieu of a third-strike penalty.

The question for the voter is whether one wants to further ease a program that seems to be working?

We should not forget two things: First, nobody made the criminal commit the crimes that led to eligibility of a third strike. And, second, nobody made that criminal commit the crime that led to his being a three-striker.

These laws were passed by the voters to take criminals off the street. The assumption was that criminals who keep committing crimes are supporting themselves that way, and will continue to do so unless taken out of the action permanently.

Prop. 36 in 2000 gave district attorneys and the courts leeway to give three-strikers diversionary treatment.

One could argue the three-strikes law, as amended by the people in 2000, by almost every measure has made the public safer.


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