Lawmakers looking to change California's Three Strikes law

  • 5/12/2007:A9: AT THE PRISON - Upon their arrival, the visitors walk past a guard tower and razor wire at Valley State Prison for Women.
    PC: The group of children from the north bay area walks past the razor wire and guard tower in the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla on their way to visit their mothers on Friday, May 11, 2007. Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Some state lawmakers want to ask voters to revise California's Three Strikes law as a way to reduce prison sentences and save money on corrections, but they're having a hard time getting the issue through the Legislature.

The Assembly on Monday failed to pass AB327, which would require that a defendant's third strike be for a serious or violent felony. Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles, asked for the bill to be taken up again Tuesday, the deadline for each house to pass legislation introduced last year.

"This bill is necessary because current three strikes law has led to many unjust sentences over the past 18 years that are not proportionate to the offense. As an advocate for fair and just society, this reality is quite troubling," Davis said Monday.

Democratic supporters say the change is needed because many third-strike offenders have been sentenced for petty theft and less serious offenses. Debate is split largely along partisan lines, with Republicans saying the bill dilutes the intent of the 1994 voter-approved law, which was intended to punish repeat offenders.

"This is a grave issue," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. "Three strikes came to pass because repeat, unrehabilitated offenders were preying again and again and again upon our families, our children, the people of our community. And it has worked."

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