non-violent crimes

Vote YES on Prop 36: Amend the Three Strikes Law

America's prison problem (Great VIDEO)

Why does the US put so many people behind bars and what lies behind California's new push for leniency?

last Modified: 01 Nov 2012 14:40

By filmmakers Michael Montgomery and Monica Lam

The US locks up more people than any other country in the world, spending over $80billion each year to keep some two million prisoners behind bars. Over the past three decades, tough sentencing laws have contributed to a doubling of the country's prison population, with laws commonly known as 'three strikes and you're out' mandating life sentences for a wide range of crimes.

But a clear sign that Americans are rethinking crime and punishment is a voter's initiative on California's November ballot called Proposition 36 that seeks to reform the state's three-strikes law. Some 27 states have three-strikes laws patterned after California's version, which was one of the first to be enacted in the country.

Since it was passed in 1994, nearly 9,000 felons have been convicted in California under the law.

One of them is Norman Williams, a 49-year-old African-American man who was a crack addict living on the streets. He was convicted of burglarising an empty home and later stealing an armload of tools from an art studio. His third strike: filching a jack from a tow truck in Long Beach. His fate sealed under California's three-strikes law, Williams was sent to a maximum security prison [for a life sentence] alongside murderers, rapists and other violent criminals.

"I never wanted to do my whole life in prison. Nobody wants to be caged like that," Williams says.

Williams was lucky. After 13 years behind bars, his case was reviewed by a judge and he was released. He is one of about two dozen 'three strikers' who have won sentence reductions through the work of a Stanford University law clinic founded by Michael Romano. In Williams' case, the prosecutor actually agreed that the original sentence was too harsh. An idea emerged from Romano's work: Why not draft a ballot initiative to ensure that sentences like Williams' will not be repeated?

"When people originally passed the three-strikes law in 1994 the campaigns were about keeping serious and violent murderers, child molesters in prison for the rest of their lives," Romano says. "I think that's what people want and are kind of shocked to hear that people have been sentenced to life for petty theft."

Police Are Twice As Likely To Sexually Assault You And Five Times As Likely To Murder You

[written by an ex cop]

IT’S true!  According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics, between January 2010 and September 2010, 31 kops per 100,000 committed homicide and 73 committed sexual assault. In comparison to 100,000 of the general population (this includes blacks, whites, Mexicans, gang members etc) only 5 citizens committed homicide and 29 committed sexual assaults.
 
If you have a choice to mingle with a crowd of 100,000 kops or 100,000 citizens, it’s more dangerous to hang out with the police.
 
I’m still amazed at the number of Americans (mostly the older) who still trust persons wearing a uniform of authority.  The older demographic was brainwashed so well they do whatever their preachers, police officers, politicians or judges tell them to do.  It’s this “authority worshiping” and blind obedience that led America to its current police state that houses 25% of the world’s prisoners but contains only 5% of the world’s population. Our parents and grandparents were duped into giving away our freedoms for a pretended security.