- Category: Criminal Justice
REPORT: Three Strikes in California
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Three Strikes in California
SENTENCING PRIMER: An Overview of Sentencing in California
California is one of 24 states, along with the federal government, that enacted some form of Three-Strikes sentencing in the 1990s. California’s law, enacted in 1994, contains the most severe sentence enhancements, applies to a particularly broad group of felonies, and has been used more extensively in sentencing criminal cases than in any other state (Chen 2008). California’s law is also unique in that the doubled-sentence enhancement can be applied to all felonies, not just those classified as serious or violent.
This report documents the frequency of enhancements under the state’s Three-Strikes law among two samples: (1) people admitted to state prison since 2015, and (2) people who are incarcerated in state prison as of January 2022. It analyzes variation across counties in the rate at which people are admitted to prison with a strike enhancement, benchmarking admission rates against the level of felony arrests in the county. It also presents a review of the scholarly research evaluating the effects of Three Strikes on crime rates.
CPL conducted this study through a research partnership with the Committee on Revision of the Penal Code, a state agency that studies and makes recommendations to improve California’s criminal legal system.
Suggested citation: Bird, M., Gill, O., Lacoe, J., Pickard, M., Raphael, S., Skog, A. (2022). Three Strikes in California. California Policy Lab. https://www.capolicylab.org/three-strikes-in-california/
Select Media Coverage
Inland Valley News: Divided, Assembly Committee Advances GOP Child Sex Bill After Public Outrage, Gov. Intervention (July 18, 2023)
State Court Report OpEd: California Supreme Court to Consider Prosecutorial Discretion Over “Three-Strikes” Law (April 25, 2023)
Capital Public Radio: Capital Public Radio interview with Steve Raphael on Sentence Enhancements (March 24, 2023)
OC Register: Three Strikes Laws Make Californias Less Safe, Not More Safe (October 31, 2022)