Document:California Press Release 22 September 1999 Libertarians Endorse Initiative to Amend Three Strikes

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400 Capitol Mall, Suite 900
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 449-3941
For immediate release: September 22, 1999
For additional information:
Juan Ros, Executive Director
Phone: (818) 506-0200

Libertarians endorse initiative to amend 'Three Strikes'

LOS ANGELES -- The Libertarian Party of California has voted to endorse a proposed initiative to amend California's "Three Strikes" law, the party announced today.

"California's 'Three Strikes' law has struck out. Rather than protecting innocent people from violent criminals, the law has instead resulted in more individuals receiving egregious mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, victimless crimes," announced Libertarian state executive director Juan Ros. "When someone is being locked up for the rest of their life because they had some marijuana in their possession, something is very wrong."

The proposed initiative, which has been submitted to the Attorney General's office for Title and Summary -- the first step towards qualifying for the ballot -- would amend "Three Strikes" by limiting the law's application to convictions for "serious" and "violent" felonies only. In addition, the initiative would abolish the use of a prior juvenile adjudication as a "strike" and would make these changes retroactive so that anyone convicted of a non-violent, non-serious offense since the passage of "Three Strikes" would have to be re-sentenced under previously existing laws.

According to the Data Analysis Unit of the California Department of Corrections, only 39.5% -- less than half -- of all third strike cases were defined as "crimes against persons." 31.1% of third strike cases were "property crimes" and another 19.3% were "drug crimes."

"The failed War on Drugs continues to destroy lives when a non-violent drug user receives a third strike. This initiative will at least help rebuild some of the families that have been torn apart by a drug control policy that will never succeed," Ros stated.

Another problem with incarcerating individuals convicted of non-violent crimes is the increased demand for prison housing space, already at a premium in California. The Department of Corrections recently predicted that prison population would exceed 213,000 inmates by the year 2003 -- at a cost in excess of $4.5 billion, or 6% of this year's state budget.

"How many violent criminals need to be released from prison to make room for non-violent prisoners punished under 'Three Strikes'? How many more non-violent prisoners will taxpayers be forced to subsidize, to the tune of $21,470 per year each?" asked Ros.

"California's overcrowded prisons are already at 200% capacity. The only solutions that have been proposed are to build more prisons or release more prisoners -- neither of which makes sense when the explosive growth of the prison population is directly related to 'Three Strikes,'" Ros said. "The right answer: change 'Three Strikes.'"

The proponents of the initiative are attorney Valerie Monroe, Chair of the Black Defense League's Three Strikes Committee, and private investigator Jan Tucker, a member of the Legal Committee of the California Association of Licensed Investigators. Monroe and Tucker need to submit 419,260 valid signatures to the Secretary of State in order for the measure to qualify for the ballot.

Other supporters of the initiative include such diverse groups as Californians to Amend Three Strikes, Save Our Sons, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and the San Fernando Valley/ Northeast Los Angeles Chapter of the National Organization for Women.

The Libertarian Party of California's platform states: "We support the concept that law should impose penalties proportional to the gravity of the violation of others' rights...Unfortunately, the existing Three- Strikes-and-You're-Out law fails to focus on the truly violent career criminals who are the greatest threat to their victims."

Californians approved the "Three Strikes" law as Proposition 184 in November 1994.