Does Three Strikes Reduce Crime? No one knows

Published: Wed 25 Feb 2009 09:35 AM
Does Three Strikes Reduce Crime? No one knows - Rethinking Crime and Punishment
The impact of three strikes legislation on the American crime rate is inconclusive. Said Kim Workman, Director, Rethinking Crime and Punishment. "If the truth be known, no one really knows". He was responding to Mr David Garrett's claim that three strikes law was responsible for a 50% reduction in both homicide and robbery convictions in California.
"Any study of the impact of three strikes on the crime rate, needs to compare the impact in the 22 states that introduced three strikes legislation, with those that didn't. At the time, there was a significant crime drop across the United States, which trended some five years before the introduction of the "three strikes" laws. Were \\\"three strikes\\\" the cause of a significant part of the decline, the rate of decline should have increased after its passage. Instead, the rate of decline remained constant, suggesting that the causes of the decline that were operating prior to the passage of the law continued to be the primary reason for the drop in crime rates."
"California's decline in crime compared with the national average, presents another picture. New York, not California, showed the sharpest decline in crime during the time in question. New York does not have three strikes legislation. Canada experienced a similar national crime drop. It does not have three strikes, and imprisons people at a rate half that of New Zealand."
"Even in California, the results were unclear. Californian counties that aggressively enforced the law had no greater declines in crime than did counties that used it far more sparingly. One study found that crime dropped by 21.3 percent in the six most lenient \\\"three strikes\\\" counties, compared to a 12.7 percent drop in the toughest counties."
"In the past, Mr Garrett has gone to great pains to distance his legislation from that of California's Three Strikes legislation, describing it as unjust. It is inevitable that if one increases the prison population four fold in 10 years, that some of that crime reduction will be due to increased incarceration. It is therefore difficult to understand why Mr Garrett is now citing California's crime rate in support of the very different legislation proposed for New Zealand.
"The general view is that there is no compelling evidence to show that the three strikes legislation impacted on criminal offending, one way or the other. The test will be what happens to the crime rate when thousands of offenders start pouring out of prisons after serving 25 years or more, from 2020 onwards, and whether imprisonment has reduced their taste for crime. We think not."

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