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Three Strikes and You're Out: Are Repeat Offender Laws Having Their Anticipated Effects?

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 81 Issue: 4 Dated: (January-February 1998) Pages: 144-149
Date Published
6 pages
Many laws have been passed at State and Federal levels to increase penalties for criminal offenses that frequently come under the general label of "three strikes" legislation, and the purpose of these laws is to remove offenders convicted repeatedly of serious offenses from society for long periods of time, in many cases for life.
Washington and California implemented three strikes laws during the 1993-1995 period. Washington's law requires a life term in prison without the possibility of parole for a person convicted for the third time of statutorily listed most serious offenses. California's law is different from Washington's law in three important ways: (1) only the first two convictions have to be from the State's list of "strikeable" offenses and any subsequent felony can count as the third strike; (2) persons convicted of a felony who have a prior conviction for a strikeable offense are to be sentenced to twice the term they would otherwise receive; and (3) a third striker has the possibility of eventually being released after serving a minimum imprisonment of 25 years. Three strikes laws have differing impacts on local courts and jails and on State prison systems. Even so, certain factors are associated with three strikes laws passed in 24 States that concern authorization, pre-existing statutes that target repeat violent offenders, an increased period of incarceration, and reduced judicial sentencing discretion. Additional research is recommended to study the effect of three strikes laws on the criminal justice process.

Date Published: January 1, 1998