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Proposal written to reform California's three strikes law

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Critics say reform to the California three strikes law is necessary as life sentences have been imposed for minor crimes, including theft crimes alleging such minor offenses as stealing a pair of socks. In February, this blog reported the story of a man facing a three strikes sentence for allegedly attempting to take a pair of gloves and some wire from a "big-box" home improvement store. That man was sentenced to a 29-years-to-life prison term for the alleged roughly $21 theft crime.

Now a group of Stanford University law professors have drafted a new proposed ballot initiative seeking to reform the harsh consequences of the sentencing law. The new proposal does not go as far as the 2004 measure that was defeated in the legislature. The new measure seeks to limit felonies triggering third strikes to serious or violent felonies for many convictions.

However, in contrast to the legislative measure narrowly defeated in 2004, the new proposal carves out an exception for so-called "hard-core" repeat offenders, that sources characterize as murderers, rapists and child molesters. In those cases the exception will allow any felony conviction, even a felony shoplifting conviction, to trigger a third strike.

The initiative is currently under state legal review. Proponents of the initiative hope to have the concept placed on the 2012 ballot. The proponents hope the state legal review will be completed by mid-December, so groups can begin obtaining signatures to have the initiative placed on the 2012 ballot. Backers of the ballot initiative will have to obtain slightly more than a half-million signatures by mid-April to qualify to have the proposal placed on the November 2012 ballot.

Source: San Jose Mercury News, "Stanford law professors submit proposed initiative to limit Three Strikes Law," Tracey Kaplan, Nov. 2, 2011

Press-Enterprise, "LAKE ELSINORE: Stolen gloves trigger third strike," Sarah Burge, Sept. 20, 2011

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