Editorial: Yes on 36
Come November 6th, Californians will have the opportunity to vote in favor of Proposition 36, a revision to the Three Strikes law, which improves upon the current policy by eliminating unjust inconsistencies in the qualifications for criminal life sentencing.
The Three Strikes law, currently enacted in 24 states including California, imposes a 25-year to life sentence on repeat felons. After committing a third felony, or “third strike,” with 2 violent or serious felonies preceding it, one is automatically subject to a life sentence with the earliest possible parole after 25 years, regardless of the third strike’s severity.
For example, Jerry Dewayne Williams was convicted of drug possession and vehicle theft for his first two strikes, then sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for stealing a piece of pizza, his third strike. As his lawyer told the New York Times, Williams now unjustly faces “the same sentence as if he’d raped a woman, molested a child or done a carjacking, because the statute does not draw distinctions.”
Proposition 36 aims to eliminate this disparity by only sentencing a criminal to life with parole if all three strikes are serious or violent, while maintaining the law’s second strike policy in that a felon will still face twice the usual sentence for a second serious or violent offense. It extends that policy to certain third-strikers as well, who will also serve twice the normal term for their new offense so long as the third felony committed is not serious or violent.
Another aspect of Proposition 36 accounts for the re-sentencing of current three-strikers as long as their third strike was neither serious nor violent.
Although it allows for the re-sentencing of repeat felons, it does not extend this right to sex, gun, and drug offenders. We agree that sex offenders should not be eligible to apply for re-sentencing, as their crime warrants a punishment of this severity. But, this same restriction should not apply to drug offenders, and that is where the primary fault of Prop. 36 lies.
Drug offenders and sex offenders should not be equally punished under Prop. 36 because the crime of drug possession seems far less reprehensible than the crime of sexual assault, and drug offenders should therefore be treated separately from sex-offenders, rather than placed under the same limit.
Despite this flaw, Prop. 36 still greatly improves upon the Three Strikes Law, and is therefore a step in the right direction, which is why we vote yes on Prop. 36.