- About Us
- Our Work
- Get Involved
- Support Us
Sign up to receive email updates from LDF.
Criminal Justice | Fair Sentencing
At the time it was enacted in 1994, California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law, was widely considered to be the harshest sentencing law in the United States. Thousands of people have been sentenced to life in prison for minor crimes like simple drug possession and petty theft.
After nearly two decades of draconian sentences, LDF, along with Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project as its local counsel, sponsored a ballot campaign for the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Proposition 36), which shortened the sentences of prisoners serving life terms for non-violent, non-serious offenses.
Proposition 36 was the nation’s first ballot measure to reduce the sentences of prisoners currently behind bars. It passed overwhelmingly with nearly 70 percent of the vote, winning majority support in every one of California’s 58 counties.
LDF and the Three Strikes Project released a progress report in September 2013 to coincide with the release of the 1,000th prisoner under Proposition 36. It found that those individuals released under Proposition 36 have an extremely low recidivism rate, well below the national average. In the year since it was signed into law, Proposition 36 has generated significant financial savings. The California prison system has saved over $12.5 million, a figure that will grow exponentially in the years to come.
Despite these early successes, much work remains. More than 2,000 Proposition 36 cases are currently pending in Superior Courts throughout California. And in Los Angeles alone, over 850 cases filed under Proposition 36 are waiting to be heard. Thus, LDF and the Three Strikes Project have pressed for a more prompt review of Proposition 36 cases.
As part of that effort, in October 2013, LDF filed an amicus curiae brief in Coleman v. Brown and Plata v. Brown, litigation that requires California to dramatically reduce its prison population to comply with the United States Constitution. LDF’s brief calls on the State of California to expedite the implementation of Proposition 36 and to provide reentry services to prisoners released under Proposition 36.
The full, timely implementation of Proposition 36 will reduce California’s prison population and help remedy the constitutional violations that have arisen from high levels of overcrowding. Meanwhile, reentry services like temporary housing, drug treatment, case management, and employment support are integral resources to prevent recidivism.
LDF’s work in California on behalf of people serving extraordinarily excessive sentences is one example of our ongoing work to reform our country’s criminal justice system through litigation, advocacy, and public education.
- Opinion: Voters' Change To Three Strikes Is Working Well October 21, 2013 Los Angeles Daily News
- NAACP Asks Federal Judges To Release Three-Strikes Prisoners October 11, 2013 Los Angeles Times
- And They're Out October 03, 2013 California Lawyer
- Federal judges Prod State To Consider Other Prison Options September 24, 2013 Los Angeles Times
- Freed 3-Strikes Inmates Have Low Recidivism Rate, Report Finds September 10, 2013 Los Angeles Times
- A Possible Answer To California’s Prison Woes September 09, 2013 The New York Times - Opinion Pages
- Counties Go To Great Lengths To Dig Up Inmates Eligible For Resentencing May 30, 2013 Daily Journal
- AP Exclusive: New '3 Strikes' Law Varies By County May 04, 2013 San Jose Mercury News
- Appellate Court Circumscribes Release Of Three-Strikes Inmates Prosecutors Must Be Notified Of Resentencing, 2nd District Rules May 01, 2013 Daily Journal
- Sacramento County 'Three-Striker' Freed Under Prop. 36 Learning To Live With Freedom April 09, 2013 The Sacramento Bee
- Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame Of Three Strikes Laws March 27, 2013 Rolling Stone - Politics
- California Horror Stories And The 3-Strikes Law November 24, 2012 The New York Times
- Prosecutors And Defense Lawyers Gird For 'Three Strikes' Changes November 16, 2012 Daily Journal
- Proposition 36: Voters Overwhelmingly Ease Three Strikes Law November 07, 2012 San Jose Mercury News
- Three Strikes: Comparing Mass. Proposal To Other States May 27, 2012 Sentinel & Enterprise (Fitchburg, MA)
- Three Strikes Initiative Garners Enough Signatures For November Election Ballot April 30, 2012 The Stanford Daily
- Measure To Scale Back Three-Strikes Law Passes State Assembly - But No Vote Til 2014 February 01, 2012 San Jose Mercury News
- Mercury News Editorial: State Must Fix Three Strikes Law November 29, 2011 San Jose Mercury News
- '3 Strikes': Proposed Law Tries To Restore Intent November 28, 2011 San Francisco Chronicle
- The Hidden Impact Of Three Strikes; State Law Is Widely Used To Coerce Plea Bargains November 28, 2011 The Monterey County Herald
- Her Honor November 27, 2011 New York Magazine
- No Easy Fix For California's Prison Crisis May 25, 2011 Los Angeles Times
- Politics Of 'Three Strikes' Law May 08, 2011 San Francisco Chronicle
- Three Strikes Law Still Controversial April 20, 2011 Daily Journal
- It's Time To Reform Three Strikes February 24, 2011 California Progress Report
- Three Strikes Project Fights Life Sentences For Nonviolent Recidivists February 15, 2011 The Stanford Daily
- Local California Judge And Former Prosecutor Supporting Three-Strike Offender's Appeal December 12, 2010 Sentencing Law and Policy Blog
- Stanford Law Students Appeal Three-Strike Cases December 11, 2010 MSNBC
- Editorial: Three-Strikes Law: A Big Error August 19, 2010 Los Angeles Times
- Three Strikes: Debating the Cost of a Three-Strikes Sentence August 19, 2010 Berkeley News21
- LA Judge Frees Thief Who Got 25 Yrs On 3rd Strike August 17, 2010 Associated Press
- LA Judge Frees Thief Who Got 25 Yrs On 3rd Strike August 17, 2010 National Public Radio (NPR)
- Finally, A Convict's Third Strike Is Struck August 17, 2010 Los Angeles Times
- Judge Orders Man Freed In A Three-Strikes Case August 16, 2010 The New York Times
- Mandatory Sentencing in California: Cooley's Law -- A Republican District Attorney Seeks to Make Three-Strikes More Humane July 29, 2010 The Economist
- The Money Question / Corrections Changes Could Yield Resources For Reforms June 04, 2010 The San Diego Union-Tribune
- Arguing Three Strikes May 23, 2010 The New York Times Magazine
- Second Thoughts On Three Strikes May 17, 2010 The New York Times Magazine - Video
- Assignment - Three Strike Lifers October 08, 2009 BBC World Service via NPR
- Three-Strikes Sanity May 16, 2009 Los Angeles Times
- Law Students Help Free Three-Strikes Offenders May 13, 2009 Los Angeles Times
- Profiles in Justice: Lawyers Working To Defeat The Death Penalty September 21, 2008 San Francisco Attorney
- Weighing The Value of a Strike July 22, 2008 The Recorder
- Stanford Three-Strikes Clinic Is 'Litigation Lab' February 12, 2007 Daily Journal