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cruel and unusual punishment: the shame of three strikes laws


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#1 GOOGLE RON PAUL

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 05:20 AM

While Wall Street crooks walk, thousands sit in California prisons for life over crimes as trivial as stealing socks


On July 15th, 1995, in the quiet Southern California city of Whittier, a 33-year-old black man named Curtis Wilkerson got up from a booth at McDonald's, walked into a nearby mall and, within the space of two hours, turned himself into the unluckiest man on Earth. "I was supposed to be waiting there while my girlfriend was at the beauty salon," he says.

....

But that day in the mall, something came over him. He wandered from store to store, bought a few things, still shaking his head about his girlfriend's hair appointment. After a while, he drifted into a department store called Mervyn's. Your typical chain store, full of mannequins and dress racks; they're out of business today. Suddenly, a pair of socks caught his eye. He grabbed them and slipped them into a shopping bag.

...

Wilkerson never made it out of the store. At the exit, he was, shall we say, over­enthusiastically apprehended by two security officers. They took him to the store security office, where the guards started to argue with each other over whether or not to call the police. One guard wanted to let him pay for the socks and go, but the other guard was more of a hardass and called the cops, having no idea he was about to write himself a part in one of the most absurd scripts to ever hit Southern California.

Thanks to a brand-new, get-tough-on-crime state law, Wilkerson would soon be sentenced to life in prison for stealing a pair of plain white tube socks worth $2.50.


Despite the passage in late 2012 of a new state ballot initiative that prevents California from ever again giving out life sentences to anyone whose "third strike" is not a serious crime, thousands of people – the overwhelming majority of them poor and nonwhite – remain imprisoned for a variety of offenses so absurd that any list of the unluckiest offenders reads like a macabre joke, a surrealistic comedy routine.

Have you heard the one about the guy who got life for stealing a slice of pizza? Or the guy who went away forever for lifting a pair of baby shoes? Or the one who got 50 to life for helping himself to five children's videotapes from Kmart? How about the guy who got life for possessing 0.14 grams of meth? That last offender was a criminal mastermind by Three Strikes standards, as many others have been sentenced to life for holding even smaller amounts of drugs, including one poor sap who got the max for 0.09 grams of black-tar heroin.


http://www.rollingst...s-laws-20130327

this is a p good history of 3 strikes. 3 strikes has always come across as back-of-the-envelope type bullshit policy that sounds good to the casual observer but doesn't actually solve any problems, so i'm interested in hearing some opinions here

and uh, before we start, just to muddy the waters here for our "party lines" types:

The surprise came when Mills went looking to raise money for what he expected would be a hard-fought campaign.

"I could not get any liberals to give me any money," he says. Mills did find one donor – George Soros – but that was it. In the end, more than 90 percent of the campaign was funded by two people: Soros and Mills himself.


soros

Meanwhile, the campaign was having astonishing success attracting support from conservatives, even hard­ass law-and-order types. The very father of modern zero-tolerance, broken­windows-policing techniques, William Bratton – the former chief of both the New York and Los Angeles police departments who had built his career around the idea that cracking down on minor crimes like subway-fare jumping and vandalism would reduce violent crime overall – backed Prop 36. "The Three Strikes approach," he said, "has political appeal for dealing with repeat offenders." But, he added, "Evidence has shown limited impact on crime levels."

Former Reagan Cabinet member George Shultz was another supporter, as was Reagan's attorney general, the anti-porn crusader Ed Meese. And, shockingly, so was Grover Norquist, the anti-tax mullah to many extreme-right causes. Norquist called California's law "big government at its worst," and added that "nonviolent offenders should be punished – but conservatives should insist the punishments are fair."

The many conservative endorsements, along with numerous endorsements of prominent California law-enforcement figures, went a long way toward helping the proposition finally pass in November.


The people who led the campaign remember their election-night victory with great fondness, but the whole experience was a bit bittersweet, at least for Mills, who seems scarred by the failure of liberals to stand up for the Norman Williamses of the world.

"They'd say things like, 'I hear you, but I really care about environmental causes, education for the poor,'" Mills says. "What it came down to, though, is that these people just don't care about the poor people of color who are locked up, and would as soon see them not released."


oh look phil ochs was right; liberals are fuging pathetic



meanwhile meese and norquist's broken clocks were right this time


anyway, what say you tinderbox

#2 Brokenbad

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 07:35 AM

Absurd.

Not only is someone going to jail over something so minute, taxpayers dollars are paying God knows how much to keep him in jail over a pair of socks.

Meanwhile, Casey Anthony walks the streets, a shame a little girls life is less valued than a pair of socks

THANKS MALL COP!!!!(not)

#3 Zaximus

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 08:37 AM

Yeah not a big fan of this law, it needs to be more specific if they are giong to keep it in there. You have people that have more than 3 DUI's that aren't locked up, and I think that's way more serious than stealing some socks. Dante Stallworth ran someone over while drunk and went to jail for 30 days.

I think the whole prison system needs re-vamped country wide.

#4 googoodan

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 05:23 PM

The punishment for uploading a Michael Jackson song is harsher than the punishment for killing Michael Jackson.

What else needs to be said about our justice system?

I never have been a fan of any of the following: mandatory sentencing, zero tolerance, death penalties, three strikes, private prisons bribe prone prison guards, or the public defender system.

#5 PhillyB

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 01:42 PM

this time last year i was on a cargo ship in the middle of the pacific ocean writing a book and spending my lunches and the occasional evening in the pilothouse talking to the captain, who was born in siberia, raised in turkmenistan, and lived all around western russia and other former soviet bloc states.

He opined frequently on tons of contemporary issues, including China's place in future geopolitics and on fat people in America. He also had a lot to say about his home country: “Russia, she is ze fahking mess. I serve three years,” (at this he held up three sausage fingers emphatically) “in ze Navy, on ze submarine, I serve my country, and I vill not pay ze taxes. I refuse to pay ze taxes. Because you see it is ze, ah, how do you say, ah, ze upper leaders, ze politicians, zey are corrupt, it is ze fahking Putin, everyzhing in Russia is too expensive, you can kill one hundred people and if you have a million dollars you can buy your way out of it but if you steal a fahking cup of ze shugahr,” (he picked up the pepper shaker and shook it emphatically) “you vill go to jail for ten years if you do not have ze money. I zhink it is very bad for Russia in a few years, it is bad now and it vill get worse…”

it's interesting what similarities you see between your own country and the bad countries that you would never be like when you take away the lens of nationalism that's often so blinding

#6 Mr. Scot

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 10:48 PM

I have no issue with three strikes laws for violent crimes.



#7 PhillyB

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 11:09 PM

I have no issue with three strikes laws for violent crimes.


define violent... i don't think getting in three fistfights in a bar should land you in jail for life

#8 Mr. Scot

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 11:22 PM

define violent... i don't think getting in three fistfights in a bar should land you in jail for life


When someone's life is deliberately threatened.

Obviously, for the most serious violent crimes (rape, murder, kidnapping) you're likely to get a long enough sentence that the discussion is not applicable.

As far as lesser crimes, there's a difference between a fistfight and a beating. When someone goes beyond just winning the fight and deliberately causes the other person a serious injury, that's a crime. I'd add things like armed robbery, home invasion, mugging at gunpoint, etc.

The spirit of the idea is that when someone demonstrates they're a clear danger to others, you put that person away for the safety of the community. And yes, I know "spirit" and "letter" often don't match where the law is concerned, but that's something the system as a whole has to work to fix, not just this set of laws.

#9 PhillyB

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 11:24 PM

three strikes just seems like an arbitrary number that doesn't make sense to use as a framework to fit ranges of crimes varying in type and consequence

#10 Mr. Scot

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 11:27 PM

three strikes just seems like an arbitrary number that doesn't make sense to use as a framework to fit ranges of crimes varying in type and consequence


Three may indeed seem arbitrary - and may indeed be - but when you think about it, how many people does someone have to hurt before you can classify them as dangerous?

#11 Mr. Scot

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 11:31 PM

While we're at it, a pet peeve of mine.

Other than stolen property being returned (if you're lucky) why doesn't the justice system employ the principle of restitution for victims more often, especially in white collar and property crimes?

#12 PhillyB

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 11:32 PM

Three may indeed seem arbitrary - and may indeed be - but when you think about it, how many people does someone have to hurt before you can classify them as dangerous?


a fundamental question that i don't have the background of knowledge necessary to legitimately opine on as it pertains to the justice system, but i'd guess the answer lies somewhere in a synthesis of maintaining public safety by keeping dangerous people off the streets and the ultimate goal of state corrections facilities as institutions meant to educate and rehabilitate extreme social deviants.

#13 Mr. Scot

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Posted 31 March 2013 - 11:41 PM

a fundamental question that i don't have the background of knowledge necessary to legitimately opine on as it pertains to the justice system, but i'd guess the answer lies somewhere in a synthesis of maintaining public safety by keeping dangerous people off the streets and the ultimate goal of state corrections facilities as institutions meant to educate and rehabilitate extreme social deviants.


As the current system runs, the notion of rehab is all but a joke. A good number of people come out of thepenal system worse than when they went in.

And yes, I believe there're some people who cannot be rehabilitated. Those are the ones that need to remain locked up. Differentiating which people are which is obviously something that the current setup either just isn't well suited to do or just plain isn't very good at.

#14 carpantherfan84

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 09:13 PM

a fundamental question that i don't have the background of knowledge necessary to legitimately opine on as it pertains to the justice system, but i'd guess the answer lies somewhere in a synthesis of maintaining public safety by keeping dangerous people off the streets and the ultimate goal of state corrections facilities as institutions meant to educate and rehabilitate extreme social deviants.

As the current system runs, the notion of rehab is all but a joke. A good number of people come out of thepenal system worse than when they went in.

And yes, I believe there're some people who cannot be rehabilitated. Those are the ones that need to remain locked up. Differentiating which people are which is obviously something that the current setup either just isn't well suited to do or just plain isn't very good at.



Interesting. Would not a major step towards addressing either of these issues be to establish a unified, cultural ideal about the purpose of the prison system. It seems to me that the system has evolved with no clear purpose other than to eliminate undesirables from public view. If we had a singular ideal about the purpose of encarceration it would be easier to establish a fair, reasonable and still deserving amount of time to imprison someone and those in prison would ( in a perfect world) grow up with a deep cultural and moral sense of what it means to be in prison and would potentially come out of it with a new sense of purpose as opposed to schizophrenia and low moral standards. The way a young man responds to discipline from an authority he respects.

It would be really hard to do in today's deeply divided political scene, however.

#15 Kevin Greene

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Posted 01 April 2013 - 10:42 PM

Commit 3 felonies go to jail.
This shouldn't be hard to comprehend.


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