Olympic College Poulsbo Fall Quarter 2011
December 6th, 2011
3 Strikes Laws: Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Washington State was the first in the nation to enact a “3 Strikes Law”, which provides for harsher sentencing for repeat offenders. While this sounds logical, the system used to determine these harsher sentences is deeply flawed and unconstitutional.
3 Strikes laws demand double the standard prison term for a second felony conviction, and mandatory sentences of 25 years to life for a 3rd conviction. For an example of this law in action, lets look at a few hypothetical criminals. Our first villain, lets call him Jerry, is an 18 year old caucasian male from Olympia. He is convicted of armed robbery after holding up a convenience store. After agreeing to a plea bargain, Jerry is sentenced to 2 years in state prison and 3 years probation. Most would agree this is a fair sentence. 6 years later, Jerry is charged with 2nd degree assault after breaking another mans jaw in a fight at a minor league baseball game in Tacoma. His friend Tom is also charged with 2nd degree assault after hitting an innocent bystander with a beer bottle during the same fight. Tom receives a 3 year sentence, followed by a years probation. After a jury trial, Jerry is sentenced to 8 years in prison for the same crime. Why, you may ask. The answer is simple. 3 strikes laws demand that because Jerry has a previous felony conviction, although more than half a decade previous and completely unrelated, he is subject to double the standard sentence for his “2nd Strike”.
Now lets move 10 years into the future. Jerry is now 36 years old, having spent more than half his adult life behind bars. Because of the harsher sentence imposed for his 2nd strike, he has no family, does not own a home, and works flipping burgers at a local chain restaurant. One night after work, he is contacted by his friend James, a 26 year old man who works at the car wash across the street...