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Three Strikes
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The Supreme Court just upheld California's "Three Strikes" law, imposing harsh sentences for recidivists.

A sharply divided Supreme Court upheld long prison sentences given to two men whose theft of golf clubs and videotapes placed them under California's controversial "three strikes you're out" law.

At issue was whether state laws mandating harsh sentences for three-time felons amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Now then, I happen to believe this is a good law, though plenty of media outlets just love to make fun of it, running headlines like, "Man Given 25 Years for Stealing Piece of Pizza".

A while back, 60 Minutes ran a story on the law, basically painting it as the vengeful and unfair legacy of a father who had lost his daughter (Polly Klaas' father is the one who pushed for the law).

Even the CNN story I just linked to says things like this:

Gary Ewing is serving 25 years to life for stealing golf clubs from a Los Angeles country club.

Which of course misses the point.

This idiot scumbag isn't serving 25 years to life for stealing golf clubs. He's serving 25 years to life for:

1. Felony conviction (buglary)
2. Felony conviction (buglary)
3. Felony conviction (buglary)
4. Felony conviction (buglary)
5. Felony conviction (breaking and entering; armed robbery)

and then

6. Stealing $1200 worth of golf clubs

So the headlines are misleading. They aren't being put away for stealing Free Willy 2 (though they should throw away the key simply for the criminal's cinematic tastes), but for the pattern of behavior that it signifies.

The logic behind the three strikes law is that it takes the totality of the criminal's past into account during sentencing. Somebody please explain to me why this shouldn't be a consideration?

If you repeatedly commit felonies, and you continue to commit crimes, three strikes says we're going to lock you away for good. You're incapable of living a normal life as a productive non-criminal.

The Supreme Court made the right decision (though in large part they were simply deferring to the state's right to make such decisions). But California is right too. If you repeatedly commit felonies, the state should have zero tolerance for you at that point. Shape up or you're going away for life.

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