Proposition 36, three strikes policy, impact looks slim
YES: 54% (3,089)
NO: 46% (2,644)
Colusa County voters joined the rest of the state in curbing the Three Strikes habitual offender law with the passage of Proposition 36.
Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner does not anticipate any impact.
"We haven't done that many three strikes cases," Poyner said. "I think I have done two and both were serious or violent felonies ... so I don't think either of those are coming back (to the county)."
Poyner said he decided very early on that he would not seek three-strike provisions unless the felonies were serious or violent — avoiding the issue of a lesser felony triggering the heavier sentences.
"So I don't think this will affect us at all," Poyner said.
A vast majority of voters in California were less concerned about letting violent criminals back on the street than they apparently are about the escalating cost of running the prison system.
The measure will reportedly save the state more than $70 million a year in prison and parole costs, and according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office, "up to $90 million annually over the next couple of decades."
The California District Attorneys Association, the Police Chiefs Association and the California State Sheriffs' Association opposed the measure.
The "Three Strikes and You're Out" law was passed by voters in 1994, and was widely considered the toughest law of its kind in the US.
Under the old law, anyone convicted of two "serious" or "violent" felonies can face 25 years and up to a life sentence for a conviction of any other felony — including petty theft with priors.
Proposition 36, which passed with 68 percent of the vote, only allows a life sentence to be imposed under two circumstances: When the new conviction is a serious or violent felony a defined in the penal codes, or if the third conviction, even for a lesser felony, is committed by a murderer, rapist or child molester. The initiative also could allow about 3,000 three-strike felons currently serving life sentences to apply to a judge for early release or a shorter term. The third strike in those cases would have to be considered lesser felonies.
Advocates of the measure see it as far more than a fiscal issue, and claim it will have a far-reaching impact on sentencing reform across the country.
They also argued that the law was unevenly administered county to county.
"Tonight's vote on Proposition 36 sends a powerful message to policymakers in California and across the country that taxpayers are ready for a new direction in criminal justice," Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project, said in a statement the night of the election.
"States that have already made some changes to their sentencing laws may be inspired to take a second look, and states that haven't made significant changes yet may start."
An attempt to ammend the Three Strikes law failed six years ago.