Senate Rejects Dropping Some Non-violent Crimes from 3 Strikes

From, 30 May 2002, Thursday.

SACRAMENTO (AP) – An attempt to exempt a series of nonviolent felonies from California’s three-strikes prison sentencing law was rejected Wednesday by the state Senate.

The measure by Sen. Richard Polanco, D-Los Angeles, got only 14 votes. It needed at least 27, a two-thirds majority, to move to the Assembly. Twenty senators voted no.

But the Senate approved another Polanco bill that would set up three-judge panels to rule on parole for prisoners who had served more than the suggested term under sentencing matrices used by the Board of Prison Terms.

Polanco said it would take politics out of parole decisions.

Under current law, someone who commits any felony can be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison if they were previously convicted of two or more felonies considered to be violent or serious crimes.

“The price for crime should be proportionate,” Polanco said.

But Sen. Ray Haynes, R-Riverside, said people who repeatedly commit felonies should be given long prison terms. “You are demonstrating to the rest of society that you no longer want to live among us,” he said.

Sen. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said the three-strikes law is one reason that the crime rate is down in California, but Polanco said the crime rate is also down in states without three-strikes laws.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February that shoplifting could not be covered by the three-strikes law. That case is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the Net: Read the bills, SB1497 and SB1517, at