Three Strikes Law a Failed Experiment

The Three Strikes Law was passed in California with an huge majority of somewhere near 70% of the population. In the 20 or so years since the law was passed, it has proved to be a failed experiment in crime and punishment. The point is brilliantly presented by Malcom Gladwell in his book "David and Goliath". The 3 Strikes Law, along with many of its supporters and like-minded judges, believe that people who commit crime do so after careful consideration of the risks and rewards in commiting the crime. This theory necessarily means that a would-be criminal considers the liklihood of getting caught, the possible punishment if he or she is caught, the possible fruits of the crime, and the way he or she will feel after doing the crime.

The problem with this theory is that many studies in criminology have established that criminals do nothing even close to this risk/benefit analysis. Clearly, a severe penalty will have no deterrent effect if the would-be criminal never thinks about the penalty. Studies show that people who commit the crime either do so because they are desperate, or because they are bored, or because they are high on drugs. By and large, they DO NOT consider the penalty or sentence if they get caught.

You see, supporters of the 3 Strikes Law do not take into account the indirect effect this law has on society. One such effect is that many of the men who are sentenced are fathers. The children of these men must then grow up without a father, which greatly increases the liklihood of juvenile delinquency and psychiatric disorder. The law also institutionalizes the individual, so when they are released, their only assications are with other criminals. California has somewhere in the range of 8 times more people in prison than all of Western Europe. If that doesn't make you fear our continued loss of liberty as a society, you probably voted for the 3 Strikes Law, and still thinks its a good idea.

At this office, we investigate each case carefully, spend time with our clients and their cases, and take every step to avoid the severe and many times unreasonable prison sentences that can occur in California. There will always be those violent and dangerous offenders who must be locked up, but being "tough" on crime as a blanket rule will only create more problems and more criminals.