Proposition 36, crafted by a group of Stanford University law professors in partnership with the New York-based NAACP Legal Defense Fund, will allow only certain hard-core criminals, including murderers, rapists and child molesters, to be put away for life for any third felony offense, while restricting the third strike to a serious or violent felony for everyone else. Forty-five percent of third-strikers are African-American.I think the "tough on crime" wave hits about every 15-20 years. People want to get tough on crime because they mistakenly think that the length of a potential prison sentence makes people think twice before committing a crime. (It doesn't.) What actually happens is that the prisons fill up faster than anyone expected. When it comes time to pay the bill, taxpayers suddenly look for "alternatives to incarceration" rather than pony up for additional prisons. We are now in that phase of the cycle, and it will last a decade or so, I would guess.
- John Steakley