California Proposition 36, Changes in the "Three Strikes" Law

The way it is now - In 1994, California voters adopted a “three strikes” law that defines strict sentencing for a person’s third felony conviction. If a person has two violent or serious felony convictions, their sentence for any third felony conviction — not just violent or serious felonies — is life imprisonment with a minimum of 25 years before the possibility of parole.

What Prop 36 would do if it passes:

  • Reduce the sentencing for some third non-violent, non-serious felony convictions.
  • Instead of life imprisonment with a minimum of 25 years before the possibility of parole, the sentence would be twice the usual prison term for that felony.
  • Prop 36 would also allow those previously sentenced for a third non-violent, non-serious felony to apply for resentencing.
  • Authorize re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if their third strike conviction was not serious or violent and if the judge determines that the re-sentence does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.

Effect on the state budget:

Savings could be between $70-90 million every year, because fewer people would be imprisoned for life, and some current inmates would get sentence reductions. The cost of court activities for resentencing could be a few million dollars in the first few years.

People for Prop 36 say (

  • Prop 36 would make the punishment better fit the crime.
  • Prop 36 would save money and resources for schools and law enforcement, instead of wasting it on life sentences for non-violent offenders.  

People against Prop 36 say (

  • Prop 36 would allow the release from prison of dangerous repeat criminals previously sentenced to life terms.
  • The three strikes law has reduced the state’s crime rate and prevented criminals from being recycled through our courts over and over again.


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