Last year in California voters approved a controversial ballot initiative.
Proposition 184, also known as the three strikes and you're out law, was passed on
November 9, 1994. Under this new legislation repeat offenders, upon committing their
third felony offense, will be sentenced to a mandatory twenty-five years to life in
prison(California 667). The initiative passed by a landslide, with 76% of the voters in
favor of it. The State Senate soon after voted the bill into law, with only seven members
voting against it. The three strikes initiative stemmed from the killing of Polly Klass by
Richard Allen Davis, a convicted felon. The killing outraged the entire state but what
enraged people even more was that Davis had been in and out of prison his whole life and
was still free to kill again. Soon people began calling for laws that would put repeat
violent offenders behind bars for life.
The premise of the new laws became an easy issue
for politicians to back. To oppose such legislation seemed to be political suicide, so most
politicians backed the initiative. Although many civil liberties groups opposed such
mandatory sentencing measures there was little they could in the face of tremendous voter
approval. Many voters did not realize that this bill could put potentially incarcerate people
for ludicrous amounts after the commission of a minor offense. Even more voters did not
realize the cost of implementing such a bill. Now that this new legislation has been in
effect for a year and the tremendous negative effects it have become obvious we must
One of the issues that must be considered when imposing mandatory sentencing is
the increased cost of incarceration. In the state of California it costs $20,000 per year to
incarcerate an inmate under normal circumstances(Cost 1).