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LETTERS TO THE TIMES

Three Strikes Is a Good Call

August 28, 2004

Re "Putting a Face on Three Strikes Injustice," Commentary, Aug. 23: Reasonable minds may differ about the appropriate sentence for Carl Quinton Jones, a man previously convicted of two residential burglaries, who then chose to break into a public school. But what the article fails to mention is that a three-strikes sentence is never mandatory. Judges have discretion to impose a sentence that ignores one or more strikes in the interests of justice.

A judge will consider the circumstances of the crime, the defendant's record and his prospects for reform to determine if the defendant warrants a lesser sentence. If the judge rules against the defendant, that ruling will be reversed on appeal in the event the sentencing judge abused his discretion.

One of the terrible details of Proposition 66 is that it would eliminate six crimes from the list of serious and violent felonies that qualify as strikes in the first place.

These crimes include residential burglary (unless someone was home at the time, in which case it would likely be a robbery), arson, criminal threats and engaging in felony conduct to benefit a criminal street gang.

Thus, if Proposition 66 passes, a convicted child molester with a history of arson and breaking into people's houses not knowing if the people were home or at work would not even be eligible for a three-strikes sentence.

Every inmate serving a three-strikes sentence has a criminal history of not just felony conduct but serious and/or violent felony conduct. Each has been given more than one opportunity to stop his or her criminal conduct but chooses to victimize the residents of California again. It is estimated that Proposition 66 would release about 26,000 of these dangerous offenders. Taking that risk would result in unimaginable tragedy.

F.M. Tavelman

Senior Vice President

Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys, Los Angeles

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Please spare me any more tear-drenched stories about the injustice of the three-strikes law such as Michael Sokolove's article. He argues that the 25-year-to-life term given to his friend is grossly unjust for the two burglaries and one break-in that Jones was convicted of. By the way, the friend was also a drug addict. The author seems to think that the cause of all the trouble was the fact his friend had been turned down for a catching position on a baseball team by a team scout.

Three-strikes is not about putting people away for a petty theft. It is about protecting the public from career criminals who repeatedly refuse to play by the rules and demonstrate that a short jail sentence is not going to deter them from a life of crime. There is a simple solution. If you don't want to go to jail, don't do the crime.

William Weaver

Glendora

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I would venture a guess that Sokolove has never had his home burglarized because he so matter-of-factly excuses Jones' crimes by stating that he carried no weapon and no one was at home.

Having been a victim of a burglary, I can tell you that the victim feels personally violated as well as knowing that personal belongings will probably be lost forever.

I also had to be concerned with my identity being stolen because my checkbooks, credit card numbers, etc., were taken.

I wonder if Sokolove has asked Jones how many homes he burgled where he didn't get caught.

We all have to make choices in life. I too was a member of a Los Angeles baseball team in the late 1960s. We actually went on to win the city championship, with two of our players going on to play in the majors. It was also my dream to be a major leaguer, but I wasn't quite good enough. I chose to further my education and not get involved in drugs. Sokolove expects us to feel sorry for Jones for having to work a "hard" job and using crack cocaine.

Choices -- Jones chose not to get an education, to get involved in drugs and crime and to not get help for his addiction. He should thank God that he wasn't confronted during one of his crimes where someone could have been injured or killed. Then he would be serving a life term.

Gary Williams

Malibu

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