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Three-Strikes Law Still Difficult to Call

January 26, 2002

"Make Third Strikes Matter" (editorial, Jan. 22) notes correctly that proponents believe that this law has caused crime to go down in California. The problem with this conclusion is simply that there is no evidence that this legislation has had any impact on crime, in California or elsewhere.

Research has shown that states without such laws on the books have experienced a drop in crime. More important, all over the country, those sentenced to prison for the most serious crimes have, in most cases, decreased, while those sentenced for drug crimes have skyrocketed, accounting for at least one-third of the increase in prison sentences during the past couple of decades. Supporters of this draconian law have not produced any research evidence that shows its effectiveness, save for vague references that the crime rate has dropped in California.

At the least, the citizens of California know what is best; that is, to get rid of this silly legislation and seek alternatives in the response to crime.

Randall G. Shelden

Professor of Criminal Justice

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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You refer to the theft of a slice of pizza as if it were a simple shoplifting case. The case you make that innuendo about is familiar to me. It was one of the first three-strikes cases in California. And that creep did not commit a simple petty theft by taking that piece of pizza; he took it from a group of children at the Redondo Beach Pier.

Not exactly the kind of robbery that Sara Jane Olson and Emily Harris are charged with, but as a third strike it was ruled a felony just the same. A third-strike robbery is a very serious matter.

Paul Silverman

North Hollywood

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