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					The Public Safety Impacts of Three Strikes in
                                    California:
   The Public Safety Impacts of the Three
                   A Review of the Research
         Strikes Law in California:
            Research Highlights


   by Barry Krisberg and Sarah Lawrence
Theories Behind Three Strikes Laws

   Incapacitation: the removal of offenders from the
    community makes it physically impossible for them to
    commit further crimes outside of prison

   Deterrence: people are discouraged from committing
    criminal acts out of fear of punishment
       General deterrence: aimed at the public at large using the
        threat of punishment
       Specific deterrence: aimed at individuals based on
        experience of punishment

                                                                     2
Examples of Challenges of Research on Three
Strikes

   Establishing cause and effect

   Compared to what?

   Estimating number of crimes prevented



                                              3
Prosecutors’ Perspective on California’s Three
Strikes Law, by CA DA’s Association, 2004
   Includes descriptions of approximately 10 individual cases

   In one place the report states: “Three Strikes has directly and
    significantly acted to reduce crime in CA.”

   In another place the report states: “The dramatic drop in CA
    crime might be properly attributable to several substantial
    factors. It is counterintuitive to think that incarcerating
    violent recidivists as felons…was not one of them.”


                                                                      4
Prosecutors’ Perspective (cont’d)

   DA’s did not focus public safety impacts but rather
    on practical consequences claiming that Three
    Strikes…
     has not caused prisons to bankrupt CA
     has not caused a decrease in education funding
     has not overcrowded prisons
     has not required new prisons




                                                          5
Still Striking Out: Ten Years of California’s
Three Strikes, by Justice Policy Institute, 2004

   Report has five key findings, one of which is
    related to public safety
     Most strikers in prison for non-violent offenses
     Law disproportionately impacts African-Americans
      and Latinos
     Law has cost taxpayers over $8 billion
     46,000 children with incarcerated parent for many
      more years because of Three Strikes law
     No evidence of a crime reduction benefit


                                                          6
Impacts of Three Strikes and You’re Out on
Crime Trends in CA and Throughout US
by Elsa Chen, Journal of Contemporary CJ, 2008

   Key research question:
     Did Three Strikes laws have significantly greater effects on
      crime in California than elsewhere in US?


   Methods:
     State-level data for all 50 states from 1986 – 2005
     Compared states with and without Three Strikes laws
     Contrasted California with other states



                                                                     7
Impacts of Three Strikes and You’re Out (cont’d)
   Key findings:
     California’s relatively tough and frequently used law has
      not resulted in greater incapacitation than other states’
      more limited laws
     California’s law extends beyond point of diminishing
      marginal returns
     Statistically significant decreases in motor vehicle theft
      and robbery in CA suggesting some deterrent effect
     Essentially no incapacitation effect




                                                                   8
I’d Rather be Hanged for a Sheep than a Lamb:
The Unintended Consequences of Three Strikes
Laws by Radha Iyengar, NBER Working Paper, 2007
   Key research question:
     What are the impacts of a sentencing policy with large
      increases penalties for a wide range of crimes?


   Methods:
     Sample of criminal records of individuals arrested during
      1990-1999
     From Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego




                                                                  9
I’d Rather be Hanged for a Sheep than a Lamb
(cont’d)

   Key findings:
     Reduced overall level of crime
           20% reduction in criminal activity for second-strike eligible
            offenders and 28% reduction for third-strike eligible offenders
     But increased probability of committing violent crime
           Increase of 9 percentage points for third-strike eligible offenders
     Increase in migration of criminals with second and third
      strike eligibility to commit crime in neighboring states




                                                                                  10
The Effect of Three-Strikes Legislation on
Serious Crime in California by John L. Worrall, Journal of
Criminal Justice, 2004


   Key research question:
     Does Three Strikes legislation reduce violent crime?


   Methods:
     County-level data from 1989 to 2000
     Controlled for economic, demographic, and deterrence-
      oriented factors



                                                              11
The Effect of Three-Strikes Legislation on
Serious Crime in California (cont’d)

   Findings:
     Three-strikes had virtually no deterrent effect on serious crime
     Controlling for trends in individual counties, three strikes had
      virtually no deterrent or incapacitative effects on serious crime
     Violent crimes were reduced when more “three-strikers” were
      committed to prison – in other words, three-strikes
      incapacitative effect appears to outweigh its deterrent effect
     No evidence that three strikes causes an increase in certain
      types of crime


                                                                      12
Crime and Punishment in California: The Impact
of Three Strikes and You’re Out by Zimring et al, Institute
of Governmental Studies Press, 1999

   Key research question:
     Was the Three Strikes law responsible for a major share of
      California’s crime decline?


   Methods:
     Analyzed arrests before and after law went into effect
     Based on data from Los Angeles, San Diego, and San
      Francisco



                                                               13
Crime and Punishment in California (cont’d)

   Key findings:
     The potential maximum crime reduction is fairly small
           Individuals eligible for 3rd strike were responsible for 3.3% of all
            urban felony arrests and those eligible for a 2nd strike were
            responsible for 7.3% of arrests – i.e., 90% of criminals not covered


     People eligible for 3rd strike accounted for 3.3% of arrests
      before law and 2.7% of arrests after law

     Three Strikes law reduced crime by 0.6%



                                                                              14
California Criminal Justice System (Part I Crimes)
2009



                                                                         Part I Crimes (779,625)1


                                                                         Adult Part I Arrests (250,653)2


                                                                         Adult Part I Convictions (96,813)3


                                                                         Adult Part I
                                                                         Sentenced to Prison (22,314)4




       Source: Crime in California, 2009. California Department of Justice. 1Table 1, 2Table 19, 3Table
       40, 4Table 41. http://ag.ca.gov. Accessed on May 5, 2011.
Share of California Prisoners that are 2nd
and 3rd Strikers, 2009




Source: Corrections,Year At A Glance, Fall 2010. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
                         http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/. Accessed on April 29, 2011.
Number of 2nd and 3rd Strikers in the
CDCR Population, 2001 - 2010




Source: Second and Third Striker Felons in the Adult Institution Population, California Department of Corrections
            and Rehabilitation, 2001 - 2010. http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/. Accessed on May 5, 2011.
Highlights
   Research findings are often nuanced and narrow
     Effects by which strike
     Effects by offense type
     Effects by age
     Effects of deterrence versus incapacitation
     Non-public safety effects

   Several issues still under debate in research
    community
   Public safety impacts generally not in areas where
    intended

                                                         18
Research Cited
   Chen, Elsa, “Impacts of Three Strikes and You’re Out on Crime
    Trends in CA and Throughout US,” Journal of Contemporary
    Criminal Justice, Vol. 24, No. 4, (2008).
   Iyengar, Radha , “I’d rather be Hanged for a Sheep than a
    Lamb The Unintended Consequences of ‘Three-Strikes’ Laws,”
    Harvard University and NBER, (2007).
   Worrall, John, “The Effect of Three-Strikes Legislation on
    Serious Crime in California,” Journal of Criminal Justice, 32,
    (2004).
   Zimring, Franklin, “Crime and Punishment in California: The
    Impact of Three Strikes and You’re Out,” Institute of
    Governmental Studies, (1999).

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