Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Should South Africa implement "Three Strikes and You're Out" legislation?

It makes my blood boil when I read about criminals, out on bail or previously convicted, caught after another heinous crime.

I read about how brave shoppers and security guards caught a hijacker in Plumstead Cape Town. He has previous convictions for theft and hijacking.

California implemented some controversial legislation some time back taking away the court's sentencing discretion in the case of a criminal convicted for the third time. They automatically received a long term sentence.

Of course this means that someone convicted of crimes like shoplifting could end up in jail for a long time. Which is why the legislation is controversial.

The following from Wikipedia:

According to the California Dept. of Justice and the California Dept. of Corrections, for the ten years prior to the enactment of the “3 strikes law”, homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, and vehicle theft totaled 8 825 353 crimes, but for the ten years after the enactment of the law, these crimes dropped to 6 780 964. However the decline in crime was a general trend throughout the U.S., even in those parts of the country without three strikes laws.

Rates of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault peaked shortly before passage of the three strikes law.

Another common criticism is that the law puts strain on an already overcrowded prison system. However, for the ten years prior to the enactment of the “3 strikes law,” the California prison population expanded by 400% and for the ten years after there was an overall increase of only 25,5%, a massive decrease in prison population expansion, and three strikes isn't entirely responsible for the 25,5% increase. Thus, though three strikes is a significant factor in California prison overcrowding, other factors are more responsible.

Some have said that there would need to be many new prisons built to house all of these criminals. However, for the ten years prior to the law, 19 new prisons were built in California, while in the ten years after no new prisons were built. Nevertheless, the increase in prison population and lack of additional prisons has added to prison overcrowding; currently, California's prisons are at double capacity.

Finally, there is an idea that criminals on their last strike will be more desperate to escape from police and therefore will be more likely to attack police. This does not reveal whether or not the criminals in question were or were not more desperate and willing to kill."

Frankly, with one of the worst crime rates in the world, it is time South Africa tried something radical. Perhaps "Three Strikes" legislation has the other well known effect - stamp out petty crime and you bring down major felonies.

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