69% of California’s voters said yes to Prop 36 and 31% said no. The passage revises the three strikes law, allowing judges to impose a life sentence only when the new felony conviction is serious or violent. It's estimated to save the state around $70 million a year.
“You’re placing dangerous criminals back out on to the streets and they're a ticking time bomb,” said Mike Reynolds, author of the 3 Strikes Law.
Mike Reynolds is the man who authored the 3 strikes law back in 1994, which quickly cut California’s crime rate in half. Needless to say, he's not happy that voters chose to alter it.
“You've taken a huge tool away from both our courts and law enforcement,” said Reynolds.
The way it's been working is that anyone with two prior serious or violent convictions gets a mandatory 25 years to life sentence after committing a third felony of any kind.
“It was unfair, it was draconian and it was going to lead to severe crowding in the prison,” said Mark Coleman, a criminal defense attorney.
Defense attorney Mark Coleman likes how voters have changed the requirement to where the third strike must now be serious or violent.
“Simple possession of marijuana, simple possession of cocaine. Those people need treatment, not life in prison,” said Coleman.
There is an exception in all of this. Those convicted of rape, murder or child molestation must still serve a life sentence even if their third strike is non-serious or non-violent.
As of March 2012, 9,000 inmates were classified as third strikers. Under Prop 36's guidelines, about 3,500 are expected to be released, which worries Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.
“The public is going to be suffering the consequences, but deputy sheriffs and police officers on the street are now going to be dealing with these repeat felons again,” said Fresno Co. Sheriff Margaret Mims.
They won't be under the supervision of parole or probation agents. However, Sheriff Mims says they'll be on her department's radar.
“We'll be paying special attention to those people,” said Sheriff Mims.
It's estimated to save the state around $70 million a year.