Punishment and Democracy : Three Strikes and You're Out in California / Edition 1

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"Getting tough on crime" has been one of the favorite rallying cries of American politicians in the last two decades, and "getting tough" on repeat offenders has been particularly popular. "Three strikes and you're out" laws, which effectively impose a 25-years-to-life sentence at the moment of a third felony conviction, have been passed in 26 states. California's version of the "three strikes" law, enacted in 1994, was broader and more severe than measures considered or passed in any other state.

Punishment and Democracy is the first examination of the actual impact this law has had. Franklin Zimring, Sam Kamin, and Gordon Hawkins look at the origins of the law in California, compare it to other crackdown laws, and analyze the data collected on crime rates in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco in the year before and the two years after the law went into effect. They show that the "three strikes" law was a significant development in criminal justice policy making, not only at the state level, but also at the national level. They conclude with an examination of the trend toward populist initiatives driving penal policy.

The importance of the subject and the stature of the authors make this book required reading for policy analysts, criminal justice scholars, elected officials, and indeed any American seeking to know more about "get-tough" criminal sentencing.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Zimring, Hawkins, and Kamin have provided a wide-ranging examination of an historic development in the law....But their conclusions about the effectiveness of a law that is unique in 'the extremity of its terms and the revolutionary nature of its ambitions' are sobering and need to be considered by both policy makers and the public."--CHOICE

"[A] major study of this unique legislation.... [It] is, quite simply, required reading for anyone interested in crime policy in California, the United States in general, or any modern democratic nation....In an area drenched with emotionalism, the authors have produced a study that is analytically incisive in setting up its categories, conscientious in collecting its data, and judicious in reaching its conclusions. It is also highly readable."--Law and Politics Book Review

"Ever since California's 'Three Strikes and You're Out' law was adopted, supporters and opponents have debated its effects on the crime rate and on the criminal justice system with far more heat than light. Now, for the first time, Frank Zimring and his colleagues provide hard data based on careful evaluation of the evidence, amplified by valuable insights into the relationship between punishment policy and the political process. Some of their findings are surprising, and neither side will be entirely pleased with the results, but the authors' meticulous research and well reasoned analysis provide an extremely valuable resource for judging what they aptly describe as "the largest penal experiment in American history."--Joseph Grodin, former Associate Justice, California Supreme Court and John F.DiGardi Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law

"An authoritative and convincing account of how the Three Strikes law came to be, and its impact on crime in California. There is also a wide-ranging discussion of how the law fits in to some larger social phenomena, including the politics of punishment and the way in which levels of trust in government have fallen. This would be a better society, with more just and humane policies, if people in authority read and paid attention to this brilliant, closely-reasoned, and intensely significant book."--Lawrence Friedman, Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

"This book tells two important stories, with authority and clarity. The first is a sobering account of the genesis and impact of California's three strikes law, a cautionary tale of one state's experiment in establishing sentencing policy through direct democracy. On another level, this book raises profound questions about the direction of criminal justice policy in America and provides rich insights and fresh analysis that, if heeded, could guide a return to policies that are both more principled and more practical."--Jeremy Travis, Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute and former director of the National Institute of Justice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195171174
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Series: Studies in Crime and Public Policy Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Franklin E. Zimring is William G. Simon Professor of Law and Director of the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of American Youth Violence (Oxford, 1998) and co-author (with Gordon Hawkins) of Crime Is Not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America (Oxford, 1997) and Incapacitation: Penal Confinement and the Restraint of Crime (Oxford, 1995).

Gordon G. Hawkins is a Senior Fellow at the Earl Warren Legal Institute and the former Director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Sydney.

Sam Kamin is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Denver.

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Table of Contents

Part I: Origins and Structure
1. Three Strikes Come to California
2. The Largest Penal Experiment in American History
Part II: The Study
3. Building a Research Design
4. The Role of Recidivists in Urban California Crime
5. The Impact of Three Strikes on Criminal Punishment
6. Three Strikes as Crime Control
Part III: Impacts
7. The Jurisprudence of Imprisonment in California
8. Living with Three Strikes: Courts, Corrections, and the Political Process
Part IV: Implications
9. The Changing Politics of Criminal Punishment
10. Democracy and the Governance of Criminal Punishment
11. Legacies and Lessons

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