California's "three-strikes" law has been on the books since 1994, threatening offenders with two or more serious or violent convictions with 25-to-life terms for any third felony offense.
More than 8,800 prisoners are serving 25-to-life terms under the law. More than 3,600 offenders received life terms for third convictions for nonserious, nonviolent crimes such as petty theft and drug possession.
Originally passed by voters on a 72 percent to 28 percent vote, an attempt to weaken the three-strikes law in 2004 failed by a much closer, 53 percent to 47 percent tally.
Proposition 36 resulted from a convergence of independent efforts by the Stanford Law School's Three Strikes Project and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley. They respectively sought to change and protect the 1994 law.
The Stanford project had worked in recent years to free prisoners it believed had been unfairly sentenced to 25-to-life terms. Concurrently, Cooley had gone to the Legislature in 2006 in an unsuccessful attempt to protect against electoral and legal challenges against what he sees as basically a good law. Their two camps came together with a proposal that became Proposition 36.
WHAT IT DOES
Eliminates 25-to-life sentences for "three-strike" defendants whose qualifying felony conviction is not a serious or violent offense.
Creates new resentencing mechanism for three-strike prisoners now serving 25-to- life terms for convictions on nonserious or nonviolent qualifying felonies.
Mandates a doubling of the new base term on three-strike defendants, in lieu of 25-to-life terms, not including existing sentencing enhancements.
Maintains 25-to-life terms for nonserious, nonviolent three-strike defendants with new or prior offenses on some drug, sex and gun felonies.
WHAT IT COSTS
"Would likely" save $70 million to $90 million a year in state incarceration costs, according to state Legislative Analyst's Office.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley
NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck
WHAT SUPPORTERS SAY
Re-establishes "proportionality" of time served for offense committed.
Saves money by reserving prison space for more serious convicts.
Maintains stiff terms for repeat convicted criminals.
Supporters have raised $2.3 million. Major donors include philanthropist George Soros ($1 million), Stanford Law School professor David Mills, ($953,000) and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. ($175,000).
ON THE WEB
Yes on 36, www.fixthreestrikes.org
Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully
"Three-strikes" creator Mike Reynolds
Leading law enforcement management groups such as the California Police Chiefs Association and victims groups such as Crime Victims United of California. WHAT OPPONENTS SAY
Could free as many as 3,000 career criminals now serving 25-to-life terms in prison.
Takes discretion from local prosecutors.
Will add to local law enforcement costs for processing career criminals likely to reoffend once released, with untold added costs to new victims.
Opponents have $100,000, all from the Police Officers Research Association of California.
ON THE WEB
No on 36, www.savethreestrikes.com