If adopted, the law would be retroactive, meaning someone like 25-to-lifer Leandro Andrade could petition the court to resentence him for the 17-year-old crime of filching $150 worth of videotapes in Southern California. Andrade is in the unique position of being a poster child for each side of the Prop. 36 debate.
The California District Attorneys Association—which, ironically, opposed three strikes back in 1994—released a position paper this month citing Andrade as someone with “a horrific criminal history” who might be sprung early if the ballot measure passes. A U.S. military veteran who has struggled with drug addiction, Andrade’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2003; the high court upheld a 50-year sentence for Andrade, who had multiple prior convictions for residential burglary and drug trafficking before stealing a total of nine videotapes from two different Kmart stores in San Bernardino County in 1995. ...
The state prison system is currently home to nearly 8,900 three-strikers. The CDAA claims 4,300 of these inmates could be eligible for resentencing hearings under the proposed law, but says nothing of the 4,000-plus black inmates that make up a whopping 46 percent of the three-strike prison population.Though the California media seems focused on racial disparities in incarceration rates, I suspect this apparent reversal of public opinion stems in great part from the federal court mandate to reduce overcrowding at California state prisons. Since they're now obligated to either spend billions more on prisons or become more judicious about who is incarcerated, it's unsurprising voters might want to release the guy who stole $150 worth of video tapes to hold those convicted of more serious offenses for longer periods, which was how the law was originally pitched. "Michael Romano, who directs a Stanford University project that represents three-strikes offenders in their sentencing appeals, says California’s version of the law has strayed from its original purpose. 'If you go back to the original arguments used to pass the law,' says Romano, ' 'they said ‘we want to see rapists and murderers and molesters behind bars'.’ It turns out that the majority of three strikers have been sentenced for nonviolent crimes.'"
California's original "three strikes" law launched a wave of similar statutes across the country, so one wonders, if the state scales back the law, will its historic "bellwether" status result in other states similarly reconsidering their own three-strikes statues?