Rally of support for Prop 36

Prop to amend California's Three Strikes law

Bakersfield, Calif. - A group wanting to amend California's Three Strikes Law made its voices heard at the Liberty Bell downtown Monday evening.

The group, Families to Amend Three Strike Law, held signs and banners calling the current law unfair and a waste of taxpayer money.

Prop 36 seeks to change the law so that the third crime must also be serious and violent. The law aims to revises the California Three Strike law so non-violent offenders can be retried.

The Kern County District Attorney’s office said Prop 36 would affect public safety and release thousands of repeat offenders back on the streets.

"What Prop 36 is going to end up doing, it's going to remove forever our ability to prosecute habitual offender that keep committing felony offenses," said Scott Spielman, deputy district attorney.

But the group, said the law needs to be revised and the current law unfair.

"It is very unfair because we have people who have done harsh, harsh crimes who don't receive life sentences, but for a non-violent crime they are able to strike you out with life in prison," said Vanessa Shadden, of Families to Amend Three Strike Law.

Under the current law, after an offender commits two violent crimes, third minor offense will give the offender 25 years to life in prison.

The group says more than 3,600 inmates are state prison for 25 years to life for relatively minor crimes that include drug possession and shoplifting.

"Any misdemeanor crime, shoplifting, stealing a candy bar, anything that is non-violent can receive and will receive a life sentence," said Shadden.

However, the District Attorney Office says that argument is not accurate.

"The judge has the ability look at it the case and decide whether or not their priors are so old and not so egregious that they don't need to treat them like a three striker if the instance offense isn't serious enough to warrant 25 to life," said Spielman.

Proponents say this is not a get out of jail free card. The revision, they say, restores the original intent of the three strikes law to only target serious offenders.

"They are going to have to go back and check their originally record and if it is for a violent crime that they did their third strike on, they are not going to be eligible for this release. Prop 36 is for the non-violent, non-child molesters. No rapist or no murderers will be eligible for this release," said Shadden.

Spielman said the crime rate has gone down ever since the law was originally passed 18 years ago.

"That's because it works. Prop 36 tries to unfairly characterize it by saying it's going to save money, prevent unfair treatment and won't impact public safety. Those arguments don't fly," said Spielman.

Many in the justice system are concerned that crime will go back up if Prop 36 is approved.

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