Prop 36 Cheat Sheet: Three Strikes Reform Act

Prop 36 would revise California's Three Strikes Law, which was enacted by voters in 1994 (Proposition 184). Here's how the current law works:

  • Two Strikes: If a person has ever been convicted of a serious or violent crime, then any new felony conviction, regardless of type, automatically doubles the sentence (16-year sentence instead of 8 years).
  • Three Strikes: If a person has two or more serious or violent felonies on record, then a third felony conviction would automatically lead to a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Per the legislative analyst, "serious" crimes include assault with intent to commit robbery, but not grand theft auto. "Violent" crimes include murder, robbery, and rape.

Prop 36 would essentially shorten the sentences for third strike offenders if the crime is not serious or violent. So under the new rule, if a person has two or more serious or violent felonies on record, then sentencing for the third strike would depend on the nature of the crime. If the third strike... a serious or violent crime, then the person will still receive life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. a certain drug-, sex-, or gun-related crime, then the person will still receive life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. a non-serious or nonviolent crime, then the person will receive twice the normal sentence (just like a "second striker").

In addition, anyone with even a single conviction involving rape, murder, child molestation, and other particularly heinous crimes will face the stiffer punishment even if the third strike is relatively minor.

Prop 36 would also allow some "third strikers" already facing life in prison to apply for a reduced sentence using the new rules. Re-sentenced inmates would still be required to serve twice the usual term for their most recent offense.

Voting YES means that you want to amend the Three Strikes Law and reduce the sentence for certain third strike offenders.

Voting NO means that you do not want to modify the Three Strikes Law and would rather keep it as is.

Inmates: Prisoners who currently face life in prison because of a third offense that was nonviolent and non-serious will have the opportunity to apply for a reduced sentence. If successful, they would still be required to serve out twice the normal sentence for their crime, since it is still a third strike.

Prisons: Per the legislative analyst, here's a quick sketch of California's current prison population:

  • 137,000 inmates at a cost of about $9 billion for FY 2012-2013
  • 33,000 of those are "second strikers"
  • 9,000 are "third strikers"

Under Prop 36, prisons could gradually see a reduction in the number of inmates as fewer receive life sentences.

State Budget: The state would likely see savings from a reduced prison population and from fewer parole hearings. The amount could be anywhere from $70 million to $90 million a year in the coming decades. That amount would be offset in the short-term by several million annually as the state and counties work to re-sentence some third strikers. However, there are other, unknown costs to consider, such as an increase in government services for former convicts.

Communities: While one may argue until blue in the face that prisons are meant to rehabilitate, recidivism remains a real and practical concern for any community receiving ex-convicts into its fold. The latest report from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows a little more than 65 percent of prisoners released in FY 2006-7 were back in prison within three years. Half of those are incarcerated within the first six months. Some of the prisoners who may be released earlier under Prop 36 could commit additional crimes.

Prof. David Mills of Stanford Law School is the official proponent. The measure was drafted with help from lawyers at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and in consultation with law enforcement officials, according to the campaign's website, Prop 36 enjoys the support of Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck. Major financial backers include:

  • David Mills
  • George Soros
  • NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Peter Ackerman

The original author of the Three Strikes Law, Mike Reynolds, opposes any change. So does Henry T. Nicholas, who helped pass California's Victim's Bill of Rights, also known as Marsy's Law. So far, only one contributor to the opposition campaign has been reported to the Secretary of State (as of Aug. 24):

  • Peace Officers Research Association of California


  • The punishment should fit the crime. Life sentences should not be handed out for nonviolent offenses.
  • Prop 36 would save California more than $100 million a year.
  • It will continue to punish dangerous felons and will make room for more in prison.


  • Prop 36 could allow thousands of dangerous criminals to have their sentences reduced and then to be released from prison.
  • Some third strikers who are re-sentenced under Prop 36 could be released without any law enforcement supervision.
  • Prop 36 is unnecessary. Judges already have some leeway in how they administer the law.
  • Prop 36 won't reduce taxes. Government doesn't spend enough on crime as is, and more crime (from those released) will cost more money.

Top Photo: OZinOH/Flickr/Creative Commons License


Prop 36: Read the Text


Prop 35: Read the Text

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It does not cover LLC, Partnerships, Insurance Co., Super PACs, individual billionaires, and multi-millionaire CEOs to name a few. Corporations don’t use payroll deductions for political purpose. That’s like saying, “we’re going to crack down on counterfeiting by collecting all the 3 dollar bills printed.” Sounds good however, counterfeiters don’t print 3 dollar bills.
2) It doesn’t stop any corporation from using unlimited profits to contribute to state or local campaigns. And the Supreme Court already confirmed that Corporations have the same rights as individuals and therefore, can contribute unlimited funds to any campaign. Corporations already outspend unions 15-1.
3) Labor rights aren’t etched in stone. They were won through politics and collective bargaining. So if you’re the 99% that have to work for a living say, “good bye” to, vacation leave, health insurance, 8 hour work day, minimum wage, work place health and safety laws, overtime pay, unemployment, child labor laws, meal breaks, nurse patient ratios just to name a few.


it's all about crime, crime comes with many fear. we had better avoid the coming of crime