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					The Public Safety Impacts of Three Strikes in
   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

Examples of Challenges of Research on Three

   Establishing cause and effect

   Compared to what?

   Estimating number of crimes prevented

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.”

Prosecutors’ Perspective (cont’d)

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

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

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

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

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
     From Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego

I’d Rather be Hanged for a Sheep than a Lamb

   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

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

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

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

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%

California Criminal Justice System (Part I Crimes)

                                                                         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. 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.
                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. Accessed on May 5, 2011.
   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
   Public safety impacts generally not in areas where

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,
   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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