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Kelly Ray

Political Science 001

Professor Hamman
Due: 12/20/2015

Does the Three Strike Law Rob Prisoners of Life

The rights of prisoners is one segment of our population that has been vastly
overlooked, as it might be expected. Typically many law abiding citizens have their
own impression on prisoners, they committed crimes so whatever their outcomes
they deserved it. First, many do not see how Three Strikes Law effects not only
prisoners, but the children of prisoners and those hard working tax payers as well.
Next, there are of course many prisoners who are serving at minimum, 25 years to
life for crimes that are minor felonies and non-violent in nature. To have citizens
incarcerated for long durations can been seen as unconstitutional under the Eighth
Amendment under cruel and usual punishment. In addition, the conditions and
treatment of prisoners is getting worse, a significant number of persons convicted
under the three strikes law are people who suffer from mental disorders and mental
retardation. There is also the racial factor to consider when a great proportion of
those sentenced under this this law are African-American and Latino.

In 1994, there was legislation to pass a bill that will allow the court to
sentence someone convicted of two serious/ violent felonies to a 25 to life term. In
2009 there are over 43,500 citizen doing life sentences under the three strikes law.
Next, there are 23, 099 persons serving life sentences for crimes which are not
strikable offences, such as petty, theft, minor drug possession and receiving stolen
property. Moreover, the cost of incarceration is staggering for the time duration
spent in prison, as well as to the rising cost associated with caring for a prisoner for
a life term. Imagine having a larger number inmates serving 25 to life for simple
drug possession, many for shop lifting and additionally scores of others for receiving
stolen property. This becomes a drain on the system and the welfare for all persons
incarcerated, becomes a factor most notably health care services, and the cost to
the tax payers becomes extensive, but over time the number continues to climb
with how the courts perceive application of the law. With the decline of the services
due to the sheer number of person incarcerated appears to be a direct violation to
the standards of the Eighth Amendment in cruel and usual punishment. In addition,
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) fell under a federal
court order to make correction in its services to inmates. Most notably was the care

and Health Cares Services, or there a lack of which resulted in the death of many
inmates and those deaths were a result of not getting the proper health services.

When the initiative was passed in 1994 this cannot be what the voters
envisioned when the voters voted for this bill, on the heels on the tragic event of
Polly Klass, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convict that was released
from prison in 1993. The law was initially established to sentence the most violent
of offenders in California, if some had two prior conviction for a serious or violent
offence then that person would be sentence to a term not less than 25 years to life.
However, over the years there have been several cases that have gone before the
Supreme Court: Gary Albert Ewing, v. California Ewing was tried and convicted for
grand theft, because he had prior serious or violent felony conviction qualified him
to be sentenced under the Three Strikes Law to 25 years to life. Ewings position
was that the conviction under the three strikes law violated his Eighth amendment
protection against cruel and unusual punishment. The courts ruling was that
Ewings past conviction was valid enough reason for his sentence to be re-enforced,
and gave deference to Californias legislation on the law. Andrade, v. Locke, Leandro
Andrade upon being found guilty of two counts of petty theft, Andrade was

sentences under the strike law to two consecutive terms 25 years to life. Andrades
petition claimed that his sentence was egregious and was disproportionate to the
crime. The high deemed that the sentence was not out of ordinary and sided with
bill locker in the court of appeals affirming Andrades sentence. In conclusion, both
the Andrade and Ewing the Supreme Court decided that both prisoners were not
harmed by their sentences and that the state was well within its right to affirm their
sentences. Although, in the Ewing matter the court gave some mention to the state
have the full capacity to legislate any laws it sees fit and if there are to be any
changes it must be made from the state. Additionally, there have been no changes
to the Three Strikes Law, but with the need for the legislature to address that
something needs to be corrected as this statue robs so many of their civil rights,
and liberties in which many are seeing the AB 109 a positive step in the correct

There are some associated factors to consider as to the families of those

incarcerated under the three strikes law behind, mainly the effect upon children.
Without have a parent to shape and mold their lives can impact their lives in some
unforeseen ways. Women although not as many as men have been sentence under

the three strikes law, a loss of a parent for a considerable length of time for such
petty offences will impact the lives of children as well as the possibility of have
those children being forced into the juvenile correctional system or foster care and
another expense that will impact the tax. With almost two million children whose
parents who are incarcerated its conceivable that by not having a parent present
many of those children will develop behavioral issues, academic failings, substances
abuse, gang involvement and a host of other difficulties. The primary development
of a childs life is primarily from their parents but without have a parent visible can
have a dramatic effect on a childs growth and development. Yet, with those
children having some possible issues by not having a parent seems that possibly it
sets up a dilemma for a communities upheavals, some urban areas have a host of
parents who are incarcerated for long durations of time and there are some
indicators that this dilemma creates problems mainly in drug use, and gang
involvement. Without not have the influence of a parent to guide and mold a childs
development. This would also fit into a nice category of creating another generation
of potential inmates.

In conclusion, the California State Legislature in its attempts to address the

problems associated with the health-care of prisoners has created Assembly Bill
109, the Public Safety Realignment solution to reduce prison over-crowding, in
which brings on a better level of service to those incarcerated in CRCR. Now if the
same legislature would do something to the scores of those wrongly convicted, for
there is a clear point that the Supreme Court will not do anything to change the way
California creates its legislation, as clearly expressed in Ewing v. California. The
many judges that have addressed the errors in convicting those accused, would
stand as a clear indication that this application of a law is immoral, and unjust. Also,
the 21 years since the passage of the three Strikes Laws there has been some
improvements into the care and concerns of prisoners, and with the passage of
more time the correct measures will occur. The cost will continue to become
staggering over the years to come if nothing is done to correct this law. As the cost
of incarceration increases the CDCR will be allocated more funds and those monies
will most likely come from others areas of the states budget that may possibly be
utilized in other areas.


California Department of Corrections 2011 Public Safety Realignment. Dec 19,

20. http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/realignment/docs/Realignment-Fact-Sheet.pdf (Date
Accessed 12/18/2015)
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https://www.oyez.org/cases/2002/01-1127 (accessed December 13, 2015).

Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. "Ewing v. California." Oyez.

https://www.oyez.org/cases/2002/01-6978 (accessed December 13, 2015).

Taibbi, Matt. Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws.
Rolling Stone. March 27,2013. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/cruel-andunusual-punishment-the-shame-of-three-strikes-laws-20130327 (Date

A Primer: Three Strikes- The Impact After more than a Decade Legislative Analyst
Office. October 2005. http://www.lao.ca.gov/2005/3_Strikes/3_strikes_102005.htm.
(Date Accessed 12/18/2015).

Inmates Sentenced Under the Three Strikes Law and a Small Number of Inmates
Receiving Specialty Health Care Represent Significant. California State Auditor
May 2010 Report 2009-107.2. http://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2009-107.2.pdf.
(Date Accessed 12/18/2015).

Julie Poehlmann, Danielle Dallaire, Ann Booker Looper, Leslie D. Shear. Childrens
Contact With Their Incarcerated Parents: Research Findings and Recommendations.
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Accessed 12/19/2015).

The Price of Prisons What Incarceration costs Taxpayers. Vera Institute of Justice.
January 2012. http://vera.org/files/price-of-prisons-california-fact-sheet.pdf (Date
Accessed 12/19/2015).

Edward S. Greenberg and Benjamin I. Page, The struggle for Democracy Boston:
Pearson Education, 2014.