The Largest Penal Experiment in American History

E.Zimring Franklin, Gordon Hawkins and Sam Kamin

in Punishment and Democracy

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780195171174
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199849765 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy

The Largest Penal Experiment in American History

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This chapter argues that California's Three Strikes is the most important effort to achieve an abrupt increase in criminal punishments in modern times. Three Strikes legislation in the federal system and most American states was designed to have maximum symbolic impact while not making major changes in case outcomes. The Washington initiative that launched Three Strikes had somewhat larger practical ambitions but was limited in its impact to defendants with three serious felony convictions. The California Three Strikes initiative was designed to use the Three Strikes label and logic to require long-mandatory prison terms for criminal defendants with one prior designated felony conviction and any current felony offense. Its two major innovations are the use of mandatory sentences after a single predicate felony and second- and third-strike sanctions following any subsequent felony conviction.

Keywords: penal experiment; Three Strikes; criminal justice

Chapter.  4145 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Criminal Law

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