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Location: California, United States

I am a neolibertarian minded individual who feels that freedom and individual rights take precedence over the wants of government. I believe government exists to serve the people and not to protect us from ourselves. I am an advocate for private firearms ownership, smaller government, reduced taxes and freedom to live your life however you choose, providing you do not directly hurt others.

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A Feast For Crows
This latest installment of Gearge R. R. Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" series isn't quite as gripping as the previous books but is still a pretty good read.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

Crime, Punishment and Disgust

In order to make society safer and save the cost of repeatedly trying and punishing the same people, many states have enacted “3 Strikes” laws. Each time a criminal commits a serious offense that is classified as a “strike” (usually any felony), their jail sentences are significantly increased, both as a deterrent and to keep repeat offenders off the street. For over a decade California has had one of the harshest 3 strikes laws in the US and all felonies are considered strikes. A criminal convicted of any felony or “strike” must serve 85% of their sentence prior to becoming eligible for parole. A criminal convicted of a second strike offense automatically has their sentence doubled. A third strike conviction gets them a minimum 25 years to life sentence.

Under California’s three strikes program, crime has dropped 45% and is down to 1965 levels.

Disgustingly, over 60% of likely voters in California are preparing to vote yes on a proposition that will cripple our three strikes law. Supporters of this proposition feel that it is cruel and unfair to impose harsh sentences for all felonies and that it’s time to reclassify many felonies as non-strike offenses. If proposition 66 passes, a person could do ALL of the following (and more) and still not be charged with a third strike offense:

  • Break into your home and steal your belongings
  • Burn down your office, forestland and other property
  • Make Criminal Threats against you
  • Commit felony gang crimes
Supporters of proposition 66 claim they are doing it because they don’t think a person should be sentenced to 25 years to life if their third crime is something minor. Stop and think about that for a minute. How many felonies do you think of as “minor”? According to the dictionary, a felony is:

One of several grave crimes, such as murder, rape, or burglary, punishable by a more stringent sentence than that given for a misdemeanor.

Imagine that someone has previously been convicted of two felonies and has two strikes against them. This same criminal then goes out and commits the felony of burning down your office while you are away. Current law would lock that criminal up and throw away the key. Proposition 66 would mean that the felonious act of burning down your house would not be severe enough to warrant a 3rd strike. You see, proposition 66 requires that a third strike offense be a violent one. The criminal has to hurt somebody in order for it to count as a third strike.

Pro-hype about proposition 66 includes things like “We can send someone to prison for the rest of their life for stealing food” and other such nonsense. The fact is, there are virtually no cases of a third strike being something as minor as shoplifting food or other minor crimes). It’s not very easy for a person to be convicted of a strike offense, and they have numerous chances for leniency. The District Attorney, the judge and various appeals courts can all reduce the crime to something less egregious than a strike offense. In about one third of eligible 3rd strike cases, the District Attorney or judge exercises this power and reduces the offense to a non-strike case. Thus, the typical person convicted of a strike offense is a very socially destructive individual. Many convicted felons they have committed numerous other crimes before being caught and successfully convicted of a strike offense. Two thirds of all 3rd strike offenders have been convicted of a violent offense, burglary or committing a crime with a weapon.

As far as I’m concerned, if a criminal has already been convicted of two previous felony strike offenses, we should be able jail them just for passing gas in a crowded elevator. I have no sympathy for them. It takes a LOT to get two strike convictions, and if the stupid sociopaths haven’t learned their lesson after their first two stints in prison, I see no reason not to lock them up and throw away the key when they commit yet another crime, even if it's not an outrageously severe one.

Another pro proposition 66 argument is that it will save the sate money by saving us the cost of keeping people in prison. The reality is, it will cost the state a fortune when these released criminals go out and commit more crimes. Law enforcement and judicial costs in finding and punishing criminals is substanial, not to mention the cost to their victims. Two million Californians were spared victim status, $28.5 billion in pain, suffering and damage was saved and still no new prisons were built during the time in which the three strikes system has been in affect, according to

The consequences of passing proposition 66 is likely to include the early release of 4,000 3rd strike offenders. Because of an ambiguity in proposition 66 that says sentence reductions are not limited to third strikers, 26,000 prisoners throughout the state could be released early. Here are a few of the people that could be released.

If in spite of the above information, you still haven't decided to vote "No" on proposition 66, take a look at who supports and who opposes it.

Chief Supporter:
Gary Keenan has spent $1.56 million dollars of his own money funding the effort to get Proposition 66 on the ballot and to promote it. If he has his way, his son can be released from prison after serving only one half of his 8 year sentence, rather than the minimum 85% of sentence required under the current strike system.

Chief Opposition:
Every District Attorney in the State of California (all 58 of them)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer
Dozens of law enforcement agencies

Additional Information:

“In the Futherance of Justice”: The Effects of Discretion on the Implementation of California’s Three Strikes Law, by Jennifer Walsh, Asst. Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminalistcs study

The Prosecutors Perspective on California’s Three Strikes Law

A Letter from Michael Ramos, San Bernardino County District Attorney

The web site:

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