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State Three Strikes Law Faces New Challenge In Proposition 36

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — California’s “three strikes” law is 18 years old and is again the subject of heated debate.

Michael Romano directs the Three Strikes Project at Stanford. He helped write Proposition 36, which would eliminate the mandatory 25-years-to-life sentence for a third felony — unless it’s serious or violent — and which would allow the release of some prisoners if a judge deems them no longer dangerous.

“Life sentences for non-serious, non-violent crimes does nothing for public safety. [Prop 36] is really narrowly tailored to find the people who have served the most amount of time for the least crime and are not a threat to public safety,” Romano said in an interview with CBS 5 on Sunday.

On the other side of the debate, Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was killed by a paroled felon in 1993, wants three-strikes to remain in effect.

“[Three-strike felons have] demonstrated … that they’re not willing to live within the law, that they’re not willing to live with the general population and at some point, they’re going to commit that worse crime,” Klaas said.

Klaas cited a drop in the state crime rate since three-strikes became law. But that rate has also dropped in two counties which have refused to implement three-strikes — San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Marc Klaas thinks that’s OK.

“I think the fact that you have participatory democracy, the fact that it’s not ‘one size fits all,’ is beautiful, this is what the people want,” he said.

The majority of prosecutors support three-strikes but it does produce varying penalties statewide. Prop 36 would make things consistent.

And, Romano pointed out, “when you can get a misdemeanor in one county and a life sentence in another, that’s when you start to have real problems.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)

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