A Game You Can t Win
The American public is alarmed about crime, and with good reason. Our crime rate is unacceptably high, and many Americans feel like prisoners in their own homes, afraid to venture out for fear of becoming another statistic. For more than 20 years, state and federal crime control policies have been based on the belief that harsh sentencing laws will deter people from committing crimes. In 1997, armed criminals in Florida committed more than 34,000 crimes, victimizing in excess of 93 people a day. These victims receive a life sentence of pain, fear, and often death. The perpetrators who impose these sentences must be punished and removed from society to protect innocent people. Florida incarcerated a total of 66,280 criminals in 1998(Orlando Sentinel). According to the Council on Crime in America, incarcerating one criminal in state prison for one year can prevent as many as 21 crimes (Swanson, 342). It can be argued that the Three Strikes law stops repeat violent offenders with the threat of longer sentences after each conviction. In agreement with the need for imposed jail terms, allowing three individual convictions to increase the sentence is a mockery of the judicial system. The Three Strikes law represents a faltering attempt at punishing violent criminals.
We have increased the odds of incarceration, said Dr. Morgan Reynolds, director of the National Center for Policy Analysis Criminal Justice Center. Perpetrators know it is more costly to commit crime, and that acts as a deterrent (Reynolds). In the State of Florida, the minimum prison term for a repeat rapist is 10 years. While this is an extensive time to remain locked away from society, the focus should be in the repetition of the crime. Ask the victim of a violent rape if she would endure this violent act again in order to see the perpetrator receive a longer sentence. A man from Moreno County, California would have faced the death penalty for murder if the prosecutors had filed a related burglary charge as a three-strikes (Kataoka). Retribution through punishment is mandatory to remain the civilized society we presume to be. It has been asserted by lawmakers that a decline in violent crimes is attributed to the 3 Strikes law. It is further maintained that criminals serve up to eighty-five percent of their prison sentences. All the evidence shows that potential criminals respond to incentives, said Reynolds. Crime increases when the expected punishment decreases, and crime decreases when the expected punishment increases (Reynolds). While prison overcrowding may be a possible excuse for the early release of criminals, law-abiding citizens would argue their safety. Due Process is afforded to all citizens of America and a sentence for a violent crime should be carried out to the fullest extent. The early release of criminals promotes the 3 Strikes law, paving the way for repeat offenses. Deterrence is achieved through fear of compensation for the act committed.
The 3 Strikes law may be asserted as a preventative measure in the sense that it is: three separate crimes, three separate trials, and three separate convictions. These steps in the judicial system would encourage stiffer sentencing with each progressive offense. It might be claimed to deter future criminal aspirations.
What citizens can count on is an increase in taxes to cover the necessary costs for an increase in manpower for repeat convictions of felons. Multiple court appearances for criminals would ncessitate additional court officers and prosecuting attorneys. The public eventually pays an average of $300,000.00 to ship one convict through the criminal justice system. Indeed, the 3 Strikes law presents itself as a renewal of the batting order for the criminal.
The 3 Strikes law falls short of punishing criminals. Judges already have the ability to mete out severe penalties to violent criminals and should be forced by the citizens of this country to uphold our safety. Incarcerating violent felons for lengthy prison terms reduces crime and protects the public. There should be mandatory prison terms assessed to these violent acts for first offenses. The 3 Strikes law will not stop most criminals from committing violent acts, as most crimes are not premeditated. They are committed in anger, in the heat of passion, or under the influence of alcohol. The prospect of a life sentence is not going to stop people who are acting impulsively. We will begin to realize a less crime-infested society when we begin to deal with our weak penalization policies.