History of California’s Three Strikes Law
In 1994, Californians voted overwhelmingly for Proposition 184 and enacted the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law, which was later codified by Penal Code §667. The goal of the new law was to increase public safety and to reduce the crime rate by giving repeat offenders harsher sentences. In its original version the law required that the sentence for any felony committed by a defendant with one prior serious or violent felony conviction be doubled, and imposed a sentence of 25 years to life to any person for any felony, if the person had two prior convictions for serious or violent felonies.
In the years since its inception, the Three Strikes law has had a devastating effect on thousands of defendants. The law has led to mass incarceration and has disproportionately affected people of color, as well as the mentally ill and physically disabled defendants. Moreover, while the financial cost to the taxpayers has been exorbitant, research has shown that the extreme sentences have had little to no effect on the reduction of crime rates.