CHOOSE1 files new initiative to reform California’s Three Strikes law

by Forrest Jones

A petition for an initiative proposing major changes in California’s Three Strikes law has been filed. The proposed initiative was received on Sept. 16 by the state Attorney General’s Office from a nonprofit, grassroots organization called CHOOSE1.

It is entitled: “The Three Strikes Rehabilitation and Reform Act of 2016.” Supporters would need to collect 500,000 valid voter signatures for the initiative to be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

'California 3Strike Law 25 to Live' graphic

The biggest changes in the law would be:

  • Convictions prior to March 7, 1994, would not count as strikes.
  • The Penal Code would be changed to say that the purpose of prison is not just punishment but also to rehabilitate.
  • It would define strikeable burglaries as when “it is charged and proved that another person, other than an accomplice, was present in the residence during the commission of the burglary.”
  • Criminal threats would no longer be a serious felony.

Third Strikers, breakdown of Three Strikes prisoners by CDCRThe initiative prevents second-strikers from applying for re-sentencing. Those who qualify for re-sentencing will be able to petition a judge to commute their life terms to non-life sentences.

The court may consider the person’s criminal conviction history, including the type of crimes committed, the extent of injury to victims, the length of prior prison commitments and remoteness of the crimes. However, the court can deny the person’s re-sentencing if it rules the petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.

As of February 2014, California prisons held 7,932 offenders convicted with a third strike who are sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison. Of these, 3,886, or nearly 50 percent, are older than age 50.

Life termers released on parole have been proven to be far less likely to re-offend, state statistics show.

At the beginning of the state’s prison building boom in the early 1980s, adult and youth corrections accounted for 4 percent of California’s General Fund expenditures at $1 billion per year. Today, it represents 9 percent of the total General Fund, approximately $9.5 billion.

“Criminal justice policies that rely on building and operating more prisons to address community safety concerns are not sustainable and will not result in improved public safety,” the California Penal Code reads.

“I’m excited to see another attempt to further chip away at the terrible three strikes law that has put thousands of people away for decades,” said Emily Harris of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. “These sentences are trumped up, tearing people away from their families and communities, while costing taxpayers billions of dollars.”

For more information, the website is www.choose1.org. The AG website is www.oag.ca.gov. Send our brother some love and light: Forrest Lee Jones, E-89706, San Quentin State Prison, Facility 4-W-4L, San Quentin CA 94964.