It is easy to rebut the Commission’s argument that ” there is no evidence which exists to justify or shape it”
Prison reformers are at one with the tough on crime crowd when it comes to the effects of 3-strikes and you are out. Tough on crime advocates emphasise the incentive not to offend in the first place. Prison reformers stress the other side of the same coin; if a crime is committed, the offender has nothing to lose on their 3rd strike from greater violence and killing witnesses and then nothing to lose once they are in prison because they cannot be sentenced to further time.
What was found in the USA was offenders serve the same 25-to-life anyway so third strikers were more violent. But if offenders had something to lose, if their punishment was more tailored to their latest crime, they chose to be less violent.
The ‘Three Strikes’ law exists because a majority of Members of Parliament want it, although there is no evidence which exists to justify or shape it. This is not an unusual situation, and there are many examples of legislation being weakly informed by evidence, or by none at all. Understanding how we got here might be helped here if we explore some of the ‘evidence’ used to introduce the law and explain its operation since then.
The overall incidence of crime is falling, and has been doing so since the 1990s, and violent crime has been falling over the past decade. There are few cases that the three strikes law affects, and these do not provide evidence to conclude whether this particular law has had any influence on offending, especially when the introduction of the law will also have had an influence on the prosecution of cases and in sentencing…
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