Cruel Justice: Three Strikes and the Politics of Crime in America's Golden State / Edition 1

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When the people of California overwhelmingly voted for the 1994 "three strikes" law, many had no idea what they were approving. The official ballot argument in favor of what Newsweek called "the toughest law in the nation" kept it simple: "Three strikes keeps career criminals who rape women, molest children, and commit murder behind bars where they belong." What few people realized, however, was that the sweeping nature of the law would put thousands of nonviolent men and women in prison for twenty-five years to life for crimes as minor as shoplifting $2.69 worth of AA batteries or forging a check for $94.94. In his riveting, well-documented book, Joe Domanick describes the lives shattered by the law. Focusing on personal stories, Cruel Justice also tells the larger tale of how the law came into existence; how it has played out; what political, social, and economic forces lie behind it; and how the politics of crime and fear work in America. Domanick demonstrates that laws passed in haste, without deliberation, and in reaction to public hysteria can have unforeseen consequences as tragic as those they were designed to prevent.

Domanick draws compelling portraits of the two innocent young women -- Kimber Reynolds and Polly Klaas -- whose murders were the catalyst for the law; of the men who killed them; of the fathers who sought revenge; and, especially, of the many people serving lengthy prison terms who are victims of the three strikes law itself. These include Shane Reams, arrested as an alleged lookout during the sale of a $20 rock of cocaine; Eric Simmons, caught in possession of three stolen ceiling fans; and Joey Arthur Fernandez, accused of aiding and abetting the theft of baby formula and Tylenol. Cruel Justice is an engrossing examination of how California wound up with the nation's harshest recidivist sentencing law, a law that powerfully affects individual lives as well as entire communities.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520246683
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 343
  • Sales rank: 1,482,587
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Joe Domanick is an award-winning investigative journalist and author, described in the Los Angeles Times as "one of the most outspoken of the breed . . . a muckraking journalist . . . [who] continues to pound away at police officials . . . and other civic center hotshots.
In pen and in person he’s got a tough and hungry manner that makes them uncomfortable." He is a Senior Fellow in Criminal Justice at the University of Southern California Annenberg
Institute for Justice and Journalism. His last book, To Protect and to Serve: The LAPD's Century of War in the City of Dreams (1994), won the 1995 Edgar Award for Best True Fact Crime.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1 Kimber Reynolds: Outside the Daily Planet 13
2 The Natural 18
3 Justice Seldom Seen in America 22
4 Mike Reynold's World 26
5 Mike Reynold's Law 37
6 A Menace to Society 44
7 A Child of the '50s 48
8 Roots of the Backlash 58
9 The New Yellow Press 67
10 Tough Love: Sue Reams and Her Boy 69
11 "Weird Ducks and Blind Fools" 76
12 Right Out of Her Own Bedroom 93
13 Another Piercing Scream 100
14 "Guns Don't Kill People" 106
15 The Prince of "J" Street: Don Novey Comes On Board 111
16 Polly Klaas: America's Child 116
17 Happily Shaking Fate's Sorry Hand 123
18 Checking the Weather Vane 142
19 Looking East, Looking West 149
20 Say Hello to Hitler, Dahmer, and Bundy 153
21 Pizza Face 156
22 Another Reynolds Bill: "Ten, Twenty, Life" 167
23 Jean Valjean Redux 174
24 The More Committed Executioner 195
25 Lenny, Drug Court, and Three Strikes 200
26 The Modification 223
27 Shane and A. J. 231
28 A "Taliban-Type" Law 240
29 Epilogue 257
Notes 267
Selected Sources 301
Index 307
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