Three-Strikes Law Ineffective in Crime Reduction Essay


One of the most important tenets of criminal justice is that the punishment given should be commensurate with the seriousness of the crime. In that regard, critics of the that it is unfair about the punishment of repeat criminals. On the other hand, opponents of the legislation argue that it is an effective deterrent against crime that offers justice to victims of serious crimes. The three-strikes law is legislation passed in 1994 under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that provides for the mandatory life sentencing of an offender who has committed a serious felony and whose criminal record includes two crimes. The three-strikes law is not a fair and effective method for deterring crime because it promotes the unfair sentencing of criminals, unsuccessfully discourages crime, and overpopulates prisons.

The Unfair Sentencing of Criminals

The main reason for the enactment of the legislation was to send dangerous criminals to prison to improve the safety of people in communities. It was aimed at criminals who were at the greatest risk of committing serious crimes. However, in certain states, the law does not target only criminals who have committed serious felonies, but also those who commit misdemeanors (Neubauer & Fradella, 2017). For example, in the state of California, instances of mandatory life sentences for misdemeanors have been reported. According to statistics, 59% of offenders in prison are arrested for minor crimes (Neubauer & Fradella, 2017). It is unfair for an offender to be given a life sentence for a misdemeanor. The three-strikes legislation is also unreasonable because it does not allow for individual variability about the third-time crime (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2016). The standardized sentencing provided by the legislation does not treat third strikes individually but generally. The only requirement for the mandatory sentencing is for a criminal to be found guilty. Some offenders have been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for possessing a small quantity of an illegal drug.

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The law promotes injustice in cases that involve young criminals and victimless crimes. Young offenders who have been convicted of previous crimes involving misdemeanors are treated unjustly when they are given a life sentence for third strike incarceration (Neubauer & Fradella, 2017). In many cases, juvenile offenders engage in criminal activities because they are not mature enough to . Factors such as domestic violence and them into a life of crime. The criminal justice system does not consider the circumstances under which young people commit certain crimes such as shoplifting, vandalism, and trespass (Kelly, 2015). In other cases, some convicted criminals are wrongfully incarcerated. They might be law-abiding citizens, but because of their previous criminal records, they are tried under the three-strikes law and given harsh sentences. It is unfair to give a life sentence to an individual for a misdemeanor simply because they have been previously convicted on two instances (Neubauer & Fradella, 2017). The law is unjust because it to decide the individuals who are eligible for a life sentence. Also, they contain a provision that allows minor crimes to trigger a third strike, and so, carry a life sentence or a minimum prison term of 25 years without parole (., 2016). For example, Leandro Andrade was given a life sentence for stealing videotapes from Kmart. The verdict was harsh because parole would be given after 50 years.

Unsuccessful Deterrence against Crime

Government statistics and research studies have shown that the three-strikes legislation is not an effective method for deterring crime. For example, since the implementation of the law in California, statistics show that violent crime has increased significantly (Cole et al., 2016). A report released by the Centers on Juvenile and Criminal Justice revealed that the law was ineffective in deterring crime. The findings of the study suggested that crime rates were on a downward trend even before the three strikes law was enacted in 1994 (Kelly, 2015). The study was conducted by sociology professor Robert Nash Parker. The study titled Why Californias Three Strikes Fails as crime and Economic policy, and What to Do, was published in the California Journal of Politics and Policy. California has the toughest three strikes law in the US. Offenders with prior records of serious felonies are given a minimum sentence of 25 years to life for the third strike (Kelly, 2015). The study included a survey that showed that violent crimes were reduced by a similar rate in all states regardless of whether they had the legislation or not (Kelly, 2015).

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