The below New York Times Magazine article highlights the harshness of California's Three Strikes Law, and how some lawyers and judges are working to reform the law and reopen cases where defendants were sentenced to life for non-violent crimes.
This piece highlights the need for alternatives to incarceration programs. Bronx Community Solutions provides increased sentencing options for judges and attorneys which provide an opportunity for defendants to be sentenced to a combination of social service, such as counseling or classes, and community service so they can work to rebuild the communities they live in and ultimately, their lives. This problem solving approach combines punishment with help for defendants that commit misdemeanor offenses similar to the petty theft described in the article which led Norman Williams to be sentenced to life.
What are your thoughts on California's Three Strike Law, and on alternatives to incarceration programs?
May 17, 2010
Arguing Three Strikes
By EMILY BAZELON
One day last fall, Norman Williams sat drinking hot chocolate with his lawyer, Michael Romano, at a Peet’s coffee in Palo Alto, Calif. At an outdoor table, Williams began to talk about how he’d gone from serving a life sentence at Folsom State Prison to sitting there in the sun. “After being shut down for so many years. I didn’t believe it,” he said of the judge’s decision to release him in April 2009.
Williams, who is 46, was a homeless drug addict in 1997 when he was convicted of petty theft, for stealing a floor jack from a tow truck. It was the last step on his path to serving life. In 1982, Williams burglarized an apartment that was being fumigated: he was hapless enough to be robbed at gunpoint on his way out, and later he helped the police recover the stolen property. In 1992, he stole two hand drills and some other tools from an art studio attached to a house; the owner confronted him, and he dropped everything and fled. Still, for the theft of the floor jack, Williams was sentenced to life in prison under California’s repeat-offender law: three strikes and you’re out.