Cover: California's New Three-Strikes Law

California's New Three-Strikes Law

Benefits, Costs, and Alternatives

by James Chiesa

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This research brief describes work documented in Three Strikes and You're Out: Estimated Benefits and Costs of California's New Mandatory-Sentencing Law (MR-509-RC).

Excerpt: Public outrage over crime has found political expression in the proposal and enactment of various laws mandating lengthy sentences for repeat felons. Put forward under the slogan "three strikes and you're out," these laws generally prescribe that felons found guilty of a third serious crime be locked up for 25 years to life. The California law, which went into effect in March 1994, may be the most sweeping of these. Although the first two "strikes" accrue for serious felonies, the crime that triggers the life sentence can be any felony. Furthermore, the law doubles sentences for a second strike, requires that these extended sentences be served in prison (rather than in jail or on probation), and limits "good time" earned during prison to 20 percent of the sentence given (rather than 50 percent, as under the previous law).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.

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