In the last few years, I've represented clients in federal habeas proceedings who received California three-strikes sentences for the crimes of DUI with a prior (Santa Clara County), theft of three computer monitors (Placer County), and receiving stolen property (Shasta County). These are not unusual. The Sacramento Bee, 10/7/12 reports that, among those serving three-strikes sentences, there are 327 whose third strike was petty theft, 2,515 with a final strike for property crimes, and 1,345 locked-up for drug crimes. I don't think taxpayers had in mind spending over $50,000/year to incarcerate these persons for 25-years-to-life. The Bee endorses Prop 36, which will soften the statute so that only those whose third strike was a "violent" or "serious" felony would qualify. This will permit approximately one-third of the existing 9,000 three-strikers to petition to have their sentences reviewed by a judge. Besides the tax savings, locking-up individuals for what may be life sentences for relatively minor crimes is fundamentally unjust. It's causing more to start Rethinking California's Three-Strikes Law and support Prop 36.
This video NYT Op-Doc piece entitled "Three Strikes of Injustice," shows we're talking real lives here--not just numbers. It's by Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway, the sister of Sacramento Assistant Federal Defender Ben Galloway: