Three Strikes Law

Introduction

The policy of three strikes law is considered to be among the fundamental postulates of the criminal penitentiary system of the United States of America. The main rule thereof is that an offender that was apprehended for perpetration of three and more serious crimes must receive more severe sentence than prescribed by statutory provisions of the law for this particular crime. This policy was first introduced in the state of New York in 1993, and then followed by California, Arkansas, Florida, etc. The last member of the United States’ community to introduce this legal provision was the state of Massachusetts in 2012. The legal concept, which is operated by the lawyers and judges in this context, is “the habitual offenders of the law” (Sorensen & Stemen, 2002). The cornerstone of this policy is that those who have been apprehended by the law enforcement agencies of the United States for committing the third crime in a row cannot receive sentence less than 25 years of incarceration or life sentence. One of the criminal convictions among these three must be of violent nature. The unanimous scholarly opinion in this regard, affirmed by the existing court practice of judicial institutions of the United States, is that to the list of violence crimes can be attributed murders, rapes, kidnappings, robberies and armed burglaries.

 

The policy of three strikes law remains one of the most debatable issues on the political agenda of the United States of America. To be more exact, it is actively disputed by the political circles as well as by social activists and civil rights advocacy organizations whether imposing harsher sentences for crime perpetration relapse serves as effective crime deterrent (Worrall, 2004). While supporters of this idea vigorously affirm that this solution significantly contributes to the crime reduction campaign promoted nationally and internationally, the opinionated critics fervently stipulate that efficiency of this program is highly disputable, especially in the light that no statistical data to substantiate the statements have been provided insofar.

The main argument supported by the first camp manifests that the major constraints for those realizing that getting apprehended the second time results in more severe criminal sentence is that a person is deterred by psychological and biological factors. Moreover, statistical evidence provided by the federal penitentiary system precisely suggests that the policy is successful. The critics, in their return, are advocating the viewpoint that this policy is excessively expensive, ineffective and often leads to a non-legitimate and unjustified verdicts imposition.

The objective of this paper is to analyze both sides of the problem and to conclude whether the discussed policy is indeed an effective crime deterrent solution, or it shall be regarded as a relic of our criminal enforcement system.

The Effectiveness of Three Strike Policy

As far as effectiveness of this program is concerned, it is necessary to highlight the fact that the majority of the state penitentiary officials of the United States unanimously affirm it. This statement is supported statistically and psychologically. Considering the fact that this policy remains a significant financial burden for the federal and state Treasuries of the United States (the cost of average inmate maintenance in the penitentiary institution varies from $ 15,000 to $20,000 annually) vigorous attacks are always made by the opponents of this policy.

However harsh the criticism may be, statistically it is proven that this policy positively contributes to the crime reduction campaign waged in the United States of America. To illustrate, in the state of California in 2010, with official installation of the program the rates of violent crime have been reduced on 30% annually. Colorado State penitentiary officials reported that 25% of violent crimes have been successfully curtailed. The aggregate national statistics precisely indicates that 17% of crime reduction has been achieved.

The unanimous opinion of the practicing criminal cognitive psychologists is that a person with previous criminal record undergoes fundamental subliminal alterations of the cognitive system. Specific blockades are created in the nervous system of the previous delinquents, and they inherently inhibit the development of further violent inclinations. However, the cognitive system of previous delinquents varies greatly, and this rule is not equally applicable to everyone. However, statistically it is affirmed that 72% of those who had been previously convicted for a violent crime perpetration do never commit crimes or other delinquent actions ever again (Worrall, 2004).

The Critical Opinion

Opinion of the critics is based on three primary assumptions.

  • Firstly, they assert that this policy is cost consuming and negatively affects state and federal treasuries. In other words, financial resources allocated for maintenance of potential institutions can be channeled to other areas, in where they are more necessitated and which are of more social importance than upkeep of the criminals with the objective of their rehabilitation and new professional orientation. To be more exact, in 2011 the Californian state auditor calculated that the state’s spending for annual average inmate upkeep amounts for $58,000. Generally, these overhead expenses took 10% of entire annual state budget, while the costs for higher education, for example, were only 7% of the annual state budget. Following this assumption, the opponents of the policy are holding forth that institutions which functionality is of paramount social importance are neglected, while the well-being of criminals is prioritized with no logical explanation of such decision.
  • Secondly, the policy of three strikes law seems to be unjust from the legal point of view. To illustrate, in 2010 a member of Californian community received life sentence for a theft of golf club from a supermarket. Similar cases were ubiquitously reported to take place across the country. In accordance with one of the most fundamental pillars of the United States in particular and common law in general, “the castigation must be deserved” and must “match the crime perpetrated”. The problem in this particular context is that the law does not distinguish between felonies and minor crimes for the application of three strikes law doctrine (Worrall, 2004). For example, a person may commit a violent crime, then perpetrate two nonviolent actions and ultimately receive life sentence, although sentence for the first violent crime has already been served. For the crimes, for which minor criminal sentences are prescribed, but obligation of three strikes law doctrine requires 25 years or life sentence imposition even for the crimes that can be hypothetically reconstructed to misdemeanors, and therefore the punishment can be commuted.

Conclusion

Having summarized the main findings of this essay, several inferential conclusions can be made. First and foremost, irrespective of the harsh criticism laid by the opponents of the theory, the solution should be nevertheless considered effective. The policy of three strike laws has multiply analogues worldwide and its efficacy has been proven by domestic and internationally collected empirical evidences. Moreover, the cognitive therapists are unanimous in their opinion that internal changes of behavioral patterns constrain a previous delinquent from committing subsequent violent actions. However, the critics of this policy contend that this policy should be abolished because of its unfair nature and big expenditures connected with implementation thereof. The most logical and reasonable consensus seems to be legal amendments’ integration to this doctrine (Sorenses & Stemen, 2002). Provided that only felonies and A-degree crimes are covered by the doctrine, it can be reasonably assumed that the application of the doctrine will be both just and cost friendly for the state and federal budgets.Introduction

The policy of three strikes law is considered to be among the fundamental postulates of the criminal penitentiary system of the United States of America. The main rule thereof is that an offender that was apprehended for perpetration of three and more serious crimes must receive more severe sentence than prescribed by statutory provisions of the law for this particular crime. This policy was first introduced in the state of New York in 1993, and then followed by California, Arkansas, Florida, etc. The last member of the United States’ community to introduce this legal provision was the state of Massachusetts in 2012. The legal concept, which is operated by the lawyers and judges in this context, is “the habitual offenders of the law” (Sorensen & Stemen, 2002). The cornerstone of this policy is that those who have been apprehended by the law enforcement agencies of the United States for committing the third crime in a row cannot receive sentence less than 25 years of incarceration or life sentence. One of the criminal convictions among these three must be of violent nature. The unanimous scholarly opinion in this regard, affirmed by the existing court practice of judicial institutions of the United States, is that to the list of violence crimes can be attributed murders, rapes, kidnappings, robberies and armed burglaries.

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The policy of three strikes law remains one of the most debatable issues on the political agenda of the United States of America. To be more exact, it is actively disputed by the political circles as well as by social activists and civil rights advocacy organizations whether imposing harsher sentences for crime perpetration relapse serves as effective crime deterrent (Worrall, 2004). While supporters of this idea vigorously affirm that this solution significantly contributes to the crime reduction campaign promoted nationally and internationally, the opinionated critics fervently stipulate that efficiency of this program is highly disputable, especially in the light that no statistical data to substantiate the statements have been provided insofar.

The main argument supported by the first camp manifests that the major constraints for those realizing that getting apprehended the second time results in more severe criminal sentence is that a person is deterred by psychological and biological factors. Moreover, statistical evidence provided by the federal penitentiary system precisely suggests that the policy is successful. The critics, in their return, are advocating the viewpoint that this policy is excessively expensive, ineffective and often leads to a non-legitimate and unjustified verdicts imposition.

The objective of this paper is to analyze both sides of the problem and to conclude whether the discussed policy is indeed an effective crime deterrent solution, or it shall be regarded as a relic of our criminal enforcement system.

The Effectiveness of Three Strike Policy

As far as effectiveness of this program is concerned, it is necessary to highlight the fact that the majority of the state penitentiary officials of the United States unanimously affirm it. This statement is supported statistically and psychologically. Considering the fact that this policy remains a significant financial burden for the federal and state Treasuries of the United States (the cost of average inmate maintenance in the penitentiary institution varies from $ 15,000 to $20,000 annually) vigorous attacks are always made by the opponents of this policy.

However harsh the criticism may be, statistically it is proven that this policy positively contributes to the crime reduction campaign waged in the United States of America. To illustrate, in the state of California in 2010, with official installation of the program the rates of violent crime have been reduced on 30% annually. Colorado State penitentiary officials reported that 25% of violent crimes have been successfully curtailed. The aggregate national statistics precisely indicates that 17% of crime reduction has been achieved.

The unanimous opinion of the practicing criminal cognitive psychologists is that a person with previous criminal record undergoes fundamental subliminal alterations of the cognitive system. Specific blockades are created in the nervous system of the previous delinquents, and they inherently inhibit the development of further violent inclinations. However, the cognitive system of previous delinquents varies greatly, and this rule is not equally applicable to everyone. However, statistically it is affirmed that 72% of those who had been previously convicted for a violent crime perpetration do never commit crimes or other delinquent actions ever again (Worrall, 2004).

The Critical Opinion

Opinion of the critics is based on three primary assumptions. Firstly, they assert that this policy is cost consuming and negatively affects state and federal treasuries. In other words, financial resources allocated for maintenance of potential institutions can be channeled to other areas, in where they are more necessitated and which are of more social importance than upkeep of the criminals with the objective of their rehabilitation and new professional orientation. To be more exact, in 2011 the Californian state auditor calculated that the state’s spending for annual average inmate upkeep amounts for $58,000. Generally, these overhead expenses took 10% of entire annual state budget, while the costs for higher education, for example, were only 7% of the annual state budget. Following this assumption, the opponents of the policy are holding forth that institutions which functionality is of paramount social importance are neglected, while the well-being of criminals is prioritized with no logical explanation of such decision.

Secondly, the policy of three strikes law seems to be unjust from the legal point of view. To illustrate, in 2010 a member of Californian community received life sentence for a theft of golf club from a supermarket. Similar cases were ubiquitously reported to take place across the country. In accordance with one of the most fundamental pillars of the United States in particular and common law in general, “the castigation must be deserved” and must “match the crime perpetrated”. The problem in this particular context is that the law does not distinguish between felonies and minor crimes for the application of three strikes law doctrine (Worrall, 2004). For example, a person may commit a violent crime, then perpetrate two nonviolent actions and ultimately receive life sentence, although sentence for the first violent crime has already been served. For the crimes, for which minor criminal sentences are prescribed, but obligation of three strikes law doctrine requires 25 years or life sentence imposition even for the crimes that can be hypothetically reconstructed to misdemeanors, and therefore the punishment can be commuted.

Conclusion

Having summarized the main findings of this essay, several inferential conclusions can be made. First and foremost, irrespective of the harsh criticism laid by the opponents of the theory, the solution should be nevertheless considered effective. The policy of three strike laws has multiply analogues worldwide and its efficacy has been proven by domestic and internationally collected empirical evidences. Moreover, the cognitive therapists are unanimous in their opinion that internal changes of behavioral patterns constrain a previous delinquent from committing subsequent violent actions. However, the critics of this policy contend that this policy should be abolished because of its unfair nature and big expenditures connected with implementation thereof. The most logical and reasonable consensus seems to be legal amendments’ integration to this doctrine (Sorenses & Stemen, 2002). Provided that only felonies and A-degree crimes are covered by the doctrine, it can be reasonably assumed that the application of the doctrine will be both just and cost friendly for the state and federal budgets.

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