Now that California voters have decided to modify the "Three Strikes and You’re Out" law, which mandates a life sentence for anyone convicted of three serious crimes, what will happen to the 3,000 inmates convicted of multiple felonies – not all of them violent – who are now serving time?
Prop. 36 co-author Michael Romano told NBC Bay Area that inmates who are eligible under the new change can now go before a judge to prove they are no longer a risk to public safety.
"Does that guarantee the world will be a safe place?" Romano asked. "Of course not. Is it better than what we had yesterday? Absolutely."
Under the "Three Strikes" law, someone who committed two felonies defined as serious could be sent to prison for 25 years by committing a third felony of any type – even some forms of shoplifting. Prop. 36 changed that policy, the toughest of its kind in the nation.
Decision 2012: Complete Coverage of National, State and Local Contests
As was originally written, California’s 1994 three-strikes law counts residential burglary as a strike, allows offenders’ juvenile records to be considered as strikes in some cases and lets the third strike be imposed for any felony. Offenders can be sent away for life if their third felony is for petty theft, forgery or drug possession.
With the passage of Prop. 36, the law now makes only a violent or serious third felony count as a "third strike."
Opponents of Prop. 36 faced an uphill battle against a heavily-funded campaign. Mark Klaas, who lives in the Bay Area and whose 12-year-old daughter Polly Klaas was murdered in 1993, fought against the proposition.
"If they can see the train coming down the tracks, yet the guy only stole a loaf of bread or he managed to get the purse away from the girl without putting a bullet in her head, then they are not going to be able to charge for three strikes," Klaas said.
The "Yes on 36" campaign raised more than $2.4 million and had the backing of big names such as business magnate George Soros, who contributed more than $1 million alone. The second leading donor was David Mills, a professor at Stanford Law School, who contributed just under $1 million.
Leading donors contributing to "No on 36" were the Peace Officers Research Association, which contributed $100,000 and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which has contributed $10,000.
At least 2,800 inmates, or about a third of the 8,900 inmates convicted under the current three-strikes law, could have their sentences reduced, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.