Conan Nolan, Sue Monroe
On the November ballot, Proposition 36 would change California's Three-Strikes law to require that a third strike be a serious or violent felony. It would also allow for the re-sentencing of some inmates. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Oct. 29, 2012.
Polly Klaas was kidnapped from her home in 1993, and murdered by a career criminal.
Her case resulted in California’s Three Strikes law. According to the law, if repeat offenders with previous convictions for at least two violent or serious crimes commit a new felony, they must be sentenced to 25 years to life.
On the ballot in November, Proposition 36 would alter that law. If passed, Prop 36 it would require that the third penalty also be a serious or violent felony.
This change would allow for the re-sentencing of inmates serving life sentences when their third strike was not a serious crime. Those whose first offense was rape, murder or child molestation would be exempt from the law, and would stay in prison.
Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley is among the proposition’s supporters.
Stanford law professor Michael Romano said plenty of inmates are now serving life terms for minor offenses.
"Stealing a pair of socks; shoplifting gloves from Home Depot. These people should be punished," Romano said, "but life sentences for these crimes is a waste of money. It's not what the people wanted and not good law enforcement."
However, opponents say judges and district attorneys already have the option not to seek a third-strike felony against a convicted criminal if they believe that final offense was not worthy of a life sentence.
They contend that the current law allows them to put away career criminals before they commit another serious criminal act.
"Whose daughter, mother, brother or sister do we want to take a risk on to let a career criminal out because his last offense was for stealing a car when he has some violent and serious priors," said Michael Rushford, of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.
Polls show support for the measure remains strong going into the Nov. 6 election.