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Impacts of Three Strikes and Truth in Sentencing on the Volume and Composition of Correctional Populations

NCJ Number
Date Published
109 pages
Three strikes and truth in sentencing laws have garnered a great deal of political and public support in the United States in recent years, and the effects of these laws on the correctional system are examined.
The effects of the laws are assessed with respect to the rate of prison incarceration, the likelihood of receiving a prison sentence for a felony, the estimated time served by prison inmates, and the flow of admissions to and releases from prison. Given limits on prison capacities, the author believes policies that send more inmates to prison or that require longer terms may require the displacement of other inmates to alternative forms of supervision. The effects of the laws are estimated nationwide, with emphasis on California and Washington. The analysis shows three strikes laws have had very limited effects in California. The combination of three strikes and truth in sentencing laws has affected the proportion of prison inmates over 50 years of age. In Washington, there appears to be some reductions in the growth of parole entries and exits associated with three strikes laws. The lack of significant effects of three strikes laws nationally is attributed in large part to the fact that the laws are very rarely used in most States. Overall, both three strikes and truth in sentencing laws have had few observable short-term effects on the volume and composition of correctional populations, but there appears to be evidence of a longer term effect of truth in sentencing laws in Washington compared to other States. Appendixes provide supplemental data on the analysis of the laws, along with the analysis methodology and data sources. References, tables, and figures

Date Published: January 1, 2000