Government and Politics AP
29 September 2013
The Three Strikes Rule
The relation of violent crimes and the idea of recidivism has always been something that has been taken into account in the legal system. As early as 1895 in the Gladstone Committee Report, habitual offenders have garnered attention in penology circles (Katkin 99). The idea of punishing recidivism is split among politicians, though, as many politicians who disagree argue that the result is too monetarily costly for the state and the state’s citizens. One of the proposed solutions to this problem is what is called the “Three Strikes Rule”. Because this is a reserved power of the states, no decision made is federal, thus there are many heated debates over whether it should be implemented or not. Does the Three Strikes Rule effectively stop crime, and does it perform that task cost-effectively as well?
The first public attention garnered for a three-strikes plan came from the outreach by an average wedding photographer, Mike Reynolds, whose 18-year-old daughter had been killed by a violent recidivist. On June 29, 1992, in Fresno, California, Kimber Reynolds was approached on the street by two men on a motorcycle. One of the men tried to steal her purse, and when she resisted, the other pulled a .357 Magnum out of his waistband and shot her in the side of the head. She died 26 hours later. After a couple days of searching, they found the location of the gunman, Joe Davis. Davis was a 25-year-old confirmed methamphetamine user repeatedly convicted and jailed for offenses including armed robbery, auto theft, and illegal drug usage. Davis had only been released from prison a mere 3 months before Kimber’s shooting. As police surrounded Davis’ apartment, Davis stepped out and started firing at the police, eventually being shot to death by police officers. The accomplice was found not long after. His name is Douglas Walker, a 26-year-old repeat offender as well. He plead guilty in court. Walker received the maximum sentence possible, a 9-year stint. With good behavior, though, he’d be back on the Fresno streets in only half of that time. Reynolds knew the law needed to change to protect the non-criminals in America, and so he, personally, confronted the California state legislature. His proposal was that a second-time offender faced a sentence double that of what a single-time offender would face, and a third-time offender received twenty-five years to life. It was met coldly and almost immediately quashed. Nothing new about the law arose until October 1, 1993, when a 12-year-old girl, Polly Klaas, was kidnapped from her own slumber party by 39-year-old Richard Davis, a criminal with a lengthy history of violent crime. Davis had encountered police coincidentally about two months later, and it is believed that soon after, he murdered Polly by strangulation and buried her in a shallow, hidden grave. When Davis was arrested for violation of parole, the arresting officer recognized his face from sketches and charged him with the murder of Polly Klaas. Four days later, Davis led police to Polly’s body. In 1996, Davis was tried and convicted for first-degree murder, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, and lewd act on a child. The jury returned a verdict of death; he remains on death row today. A little over three months after Polly’s body had been found, California signed into law its own Three Strikes act on March 8, 1994. Although Washington had signed their Three Strikes act into effect in 1993, California’s is viewed as the most important and most unanimous, as it passed with over a 70% acceptance percentage. Within a three-year period, twenty-four states, including Indiana, have integrated some form of a three-strikes rule into their penal system. Since 1995, none of the remaining 26 states have changed their position, though.
This system of punishment has not come without its opponents and faults as well. One of the most publicized cases shedding...
Cited: Katkin, Daniel (1971-1972). "Habitual Offender Laws: A Reconsideration." Buffalo Law Review 21 (3): 99–120.
Combs, Dave. “VTS_01_1.mp4.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 Mar. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.
Brown, Tanya Ballard. “Timeline: The Evolution Of California 's Three Strikes Law.” NPR. NPR, 28 Oct. 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.
University of California, Riverside. "Evidence does not support three-strikes law as crime deterrent, California study finds." ScienceDaily, 15 Oct. 2012.
San Francisco Gate. “Cost of ‘three strikes’ law.” SFGate. 5 Mar. 2004. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.
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