Newsbrief: "Three Strikes" Challenge Makes California Ballot 6/11/04

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Organizers of an initiative that would undo some of the harshest provisions of California's "three-strikes" law have gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the November ballot, the group announced this week. Under the state's three-strikes law, which mandates 25-to-life for third time felony offenders, thousands of prisoners are doing decades of prison time for nonviolent offenses. And it's official: The initiative is now listed as approved on the web site of the California Secretary of State.

Sponsored by Citizens Against Violent Crime (, the "Three Strikes and Child Protection Act of 2004" would require that only violent or serious felonies count as a third strike. Under the current law, people are doing 25-to-life for third strikes that included stealing a piece of pizza, stealing videos, and walking out of sporting goods store with a set of golf clubs without paying.

The initiative effort came about after the US Supreme Court in March 2003 upheld the laws ( The sentences were not so grossly disproportionate as to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, the justices ruled in a 5-4 decision.

The initiative has been endorsed by a large number of political office-seekers, community leaders and organizations, ranging from the ACLU of Southern California and California NORML to the Central Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles African-American Chamber of Commerce, as well as dozens of Democratic clubs statewide.

It appears to have strong support at this early stage. The Associated Press reported Thursday that a non-partisan Fielding Poll of voters on a variety of pending initiatives found the three-strikes challenge winning the approval of a whopping 76% of those polled, including 74% of Republicans. Although, led tough-on-crime politicians, Californians have for the past two decades gorged themselves on fear of crime and stuffed the state's prisons with nonviolent offenders -- including more than a thousand doing three-strikes sentences and dozens doing them for a marijuana offense – the expenses of maintaining those prisons has provided an opening for reformers.

But expect a tough fight from conservative politicians, powerful prison guard and police unions, and victims' rights activists, such as Mike Reynolds, the Fresno father of a murdered teen who helped write the three-strikes law. Visit his web site – -- for a taste of what to expect.

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Issue #341, 6/11/04 The Reagan-Era Drug War Legacy | Medical Marijuana Activists Protest at More Than 100 Congressional Offices in National Day of Action | Despite Ohio State University's Best Efforts, Ohio Hempfest Goes On As Scheduled | Canadian Marijuana Reformers "Fill the Hill" to Make Cannabis an Issue in Upcoming Election Season | Newsbrief: "Three Strikes" Challenge Makes California Ballot | Newsbrief: Pennsylvania Troopers Find Dope Most Often on White Motorists but Search More Blacks and Hispanics, Study Finds | Newsbrief: Swiss Doctors Want Prescription Cocaine, But Government Wary With Cannabis Decriminalization Vote Looming | Newsbrief: Another Pain Doctor on Trial | Newsbrief: Legalize and Tax Cannabis, Says Canadian Institute | Links: Rockefeller Reform Fizzles Again | The Reformer's Calendar

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