There is an active revolt going on against District Attorneys who once elected decide to take the law into their own hands and apply laws at their personal whim. This has caused havoc and uproar across our nation highlighted recently by the charges against a bodega worker in New York City (later dropped) for killing a criminal who physically attacked him. These scofflaw DAs are not the only ones trying to make nonsensical wholesale changes to our justice system.
In 1994, the residents of California voted overwhelmingly (72%) to establish a three-strikes law. We had been in a period of increased crime (including violent crimes) and people were fed up with the light sentences handed out to repeat criminals. They created a statute stating if you are convicted of three nonconcurrent felonies you could be sentenced on the third violent or serious felony to a term of 25 years to life.
There is now a movement to restructure this law (originally enacted by initiative). I agree that laws should be reviewed regularly to see if they need adjustment. A perfect example was reviewing NAFTA and making updates for changes in the economies of the three countries in the deal and updating the law for an evolving world.
What about three-strikes? Let us first look at the law itself. Let’s say someone commits a felony. All those reading this column, raise your hand if you have committed a felony. Just as I thought, virtually no one. Raise your hand if you personally know someone who committed a felony. Again, maybe a few. We are fair people regardless. Even if someone did commit a felony and was convicted, we could see them turning their lives around and never committing such a serious crime again. It happens all the time.
Then a person commits a second felony. You begin to look at them differently. They may have a lengthy list of other crimes that were not charged as felonies. You begin to doubt that they can be anything other than a career criminal. They have now committed two serious or violent felonies as delineated in the penal code. Not every felony is on that list. Then they commit a third felony which is by law considered either violent or serious. What is the question here? Only a fool or someone with an alternative agenda would say anything other than lock him up and throw away the key.
Sorry, there is no room for compassion here. Not one thing has changed in the 28 years since the law was passed. Anyone committing three felonies is a career criminal — the same as 28 years ago, today and in the future. Many would say two is enough.
Despite that Governor Newsom appointed five people (now four) and two members of the California Legislature to the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code. The Committee has recommended that the three-strikes law be repealed. Then they stated, “we appreciate that this is a difficult goal, the Committee offers the following.” They suggest other changes to dilute the law that currently exists. Beware, the committee’s recommendations will find their way into legislation and may hit the Governor’s desk on the basis that “experts” studied the issue.
Before we look any further let us look at their rationale. “The Three Strikes law has been applied inconsistently and disproportionately against people of color, and the crime-prevention effects the law aimed to achieve have not been realized.”
First, they cite inconsistencies. They show that different counties within California apply the law differently. Instead of recommending changes to the application of the law to eliminate inconsistencies they offer other changes to water the law down. The law is clear; therefore, why is it being applied inconsistently between counties? This is the same logic that is used against the death penalty. “It is not applied evenly so let’s junk the entire thing.” Can you see what is going on here? There are officials who do not like three-strikes; thus, they apply it unevenly instead of applying the law properly. Then their ideological allies on the commission argue to junk the law instead of correcting the deviant law enforcement officials.
We then arrive at their real reason to junk three strikes – the law is “racist.” I read the statute and did not see a word about race. The commission states 80% of the people sentenced under the law are “people of color.” They do not say the law is inappropriately applied against people of color. It just states they are “people of color” and thus something is wrong.
I do not know about you, but I do not think the typical Californian cares about the race, sex, or creed of a career criminal. If someone is a career criminal, we want them off the streets. We know they are going to commit more crimes. And these “people of color” are most frequently committing crimes against other “people of color.”
The question then is who are the racists? In my view, it is the members of the committee. Though the committee covers all the proper sub-groups that any good Democrat would appoint — blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and women. There is a token white male on the panel. They will argue how can the committee be racist if they have the Democrats’ stereotypical milkshake of people. If someone has more sympathy for the criminals committing crimes against innocent blacks and Hispanics, you can draw your own conclusions.
The last suggestion from these people for wholesale changes in our criminal laws was Proposition 47. That changed the law for theft from a felony to a misdemeanor from $400 to $950 worth of goods. It has been argued that it did not make these thefts legal, but they have barely been prosecuted. Gangs have been rampaging through stores in open daylight knowing the police have no ability to stop them and the stores have instructed their personnel not to intervene. Sometimes the lead criminal has been observed with a calculator making sure no one exceeds the $950 limit.
This ridiculous law should be reversed. Three-strikes should not be touched. Anyone trying to touch it should be booted from office. The citizens of this country should make it known that we have no sympathy for career criminals and are perfectly happy paying for them to be locked up for a long, long time. One sure way to eliminate crimes is to eliminate additional opportunities given to those career criminals.