Sunday, April 06, 2008

Why A Three Strikes And You’re Out Law Should Be Adopted

The three strikes and you’re out proposal has been strangled in the crib by the usual suspects.

The proposal is now in the process of being reconfigured. The reconfiguring will be costly.

The original proposal would have prevented judges from using their discretion in sentencing criminals already convicted of three serious violent felonies. Upon commission of a third felony, the presiding judge would be obliged to remand the criminals to prison for life.

That is the nub and center of the three strikes and you’re out proposal.

The proposal was introduced after a horrific murder in Cheshire. Two petty criminals who had been processed under Connecticut’s present liberal court system, upon release from jail, graduated to serious felonies. They followed the mother of a family home, broke into her house, beat her husband with a baseball bat, tied him up in the cellar, drove the mother to her bank where she was forced to withdraw money, raped the mother, raped one of the daughters, bound all three women to a bed, doused all of them with gasoline and set them on fire.

The mother had an opportunity while in the bank to alert officials, who then called the police, who raced to the scene and apprehended the two no longer "petty burglars" on their way to freedom.

Lots of strikes there.

Naturally, this being Connecticut, there was at first a substantial outcry, followed by a proposal to enact a three strikes and you’re out law, followed by some notices in papers that such a law would not have applied to the two petty burglars, followed by a few thoughtful opinion pieces questioning the propriety of a three strikes and you’re out bill, followed by a stiff resolve to oppose the bill and instead enact legislation that would be more responsive to the facts on the ground.

The new proposals include fists full of money thrown in the direction of Connecticut’s penal system: more beds for prisoners, more outreach programs, a reformed parole board, more parole monitors, etc., etc., etc., as the king of Siam might say, and finally, a consummation dear to the hearts of Connecticut empathetic liberals, an end to the prosecution of crimes in which there are no victims, like pot smoking and drug dealing.

The idea is to make these non-violent crimes legal and then tax them out of business; in this way, Connecticut will reap more revenue to pay for all the workable proposals that have been offered as a means of preventing burglars from beating people with baseball bats, raping women and setting them on fire.

Along this merry way, a couple of things have escaped notice, the most important of which is that the three strikes and you’re out proposal was narrowly constructed to apply only to those criminals who have committed three serious felonies.

The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and in the legislature who oppose the notion are saying something like this: Because laws on speeding do not apply to jaywalking, they are therefore unnecessary.

Of course a three strikes and you’re out law will not apply to criminals who have committed two violent felonies or to petty burglars or to jay walkers. The law is what it is. Laws are by nature limited prohibitions. The petty burglars who invaded the home in Cheshire might be eligible under the terms of such a law if they had been tried separately for each of their strikes at the Cheshire family. The law compels a judge to sentence to life in prison violent offenders who have committed three previous violent felonies, which, come to think of it, is the whole point and purpose of the three strikes and you’re out law.

None of the additional proposals made by those on the judiciary committed and others to address the problem of violence in Connecticut are incompatible with a three strikes and you’re out law. This is not an either/or proposition; all the measures that recently have been proposed can go forward at the same time. Though it is doubtful that decriminalizing pot will prevent home invasion in Cheshire, no commentator or editorialist has yet proposed that the proposal to decriminalize pot should be abandoned because it would not prevent violent home invasions.

Yet this is the rationalization used by opponents of the three strikes and you’re out proposal: The proposal will not prevent murderous home invasions by petty burglars, therefore it is unnecessary. But it is necessary to prevent a fourth violent felony, and any additional proposals to insure the public safety should pass in tandem with a three strikes and you’re out law.

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