WA Backing Off From Three-Strikes Laws

Washington State is re-thinking its three-strikes laws, particularly for non-violent offenders. Gov. Chris Gregoire was the first Governor in the country to grant clemency to a three-striker earlier this year, and has since added two more to the list.

Fifteen years after voters and legislatures across the country began embracing the three-strikes concept, many states apply those laws more sparingly. Prosecutors and judges often use the discretion provided them to avoid charging a defendant whose past consists of minor robberies or assault convictions with a third-strike offense. Now Washington is taking the extra step of reviewing the cases of some nonviolent three-strikes prisoners and moving to release those, like Dozier, who probably would not face such a severe punishment today.

The Sentencing Project recently released a report on the growing number of inmates serving life sentences. 140,000, or 1 in 11 inmates, are serving life in federal and state prisons. The racial disparity is glaring:[More...]

66% of all persons sentenced to life are non-white, and 77% of juveniles serving life sentences are non-white.

In six states, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota - and the federal government, there is no parole. Life is life, you come out in a pine box.

The report also finds:

The dramatic growth in life sentences is not primarily a result of higher crime rates, but of policy changes that have imposed harsher punishments and restricted parole consideration.

Given the economic cost of incarceration, $20+ thousand a year per inmate, hopefully more states will rethink their three-strike and other draconian sentencing laws and make some revisions.

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  • Display: Sort:
    This is very good news (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by shoephone on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 12:36:04 AM EST
    especially since Gregoire is a former AG. Three strikes laws should be struck down in all 50 states. Locking someone up and throwing away the key for stealing a pizza on the third offense is unjustifiable. Gregoire is proving to be quite shrewd as governor.

    She also struck a workable balance on the distrubution of Plan B, just slightly upholding the right of a moralizing pharmacist to refuse dispensing but only if there is another pharmacist on staff to follow through on dispensing. If a pharmacist works solo in a small neighborhood pharmacy, they don't get to deny women the contraceptive.

    Chris is a very practical (none / 0) (#2)
    by oldpro on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 01:40:39 AM EST
    problem-solving chief executive...and pretty close to fearless.  She has been especially effective in working with the legislature, both sides of the aisle, to accomplish her goals.  She's all business and no nonsense and sticks to her agreements.  She also hires pretty good staff.

    The speculation now is whether or not she'll try for a third term...or get hired away by Obama in a second term.

    Jay Inslee and Lisa Brown are waiting in the wings.


    I'd love to see Inslee in the (none / 0) (#3)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 11:37:00 AM EST
    governor's office.

    Ditto that. (none / 0) (#4)
    by shoephone on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 11:40:09 AM EST
    Because? (none / 0) (#6)
    by oldpro on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 12:49:01 PM EST
    Because? (none / 0) (#5)
    by oldpro on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 12:48:32 PM EST
    Because Jay Inslee is a solid (none / 0) (#7)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 02:52:33 PM EST
    democrat who lives by the principles of his party. If you aren't familiar with his history, research him. He stands for something, much like Patty Murray does.

    He would serve the state really well. Public insurance rates would not have doubled for the poor, and those who can't afford the increase would not be told they would just have to go uninsured.


    As it happens, I do know Jay. (none / 0) (#8)
    by oldpro on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 07:05:41 PM EST
    We have a close mutual friend and Jay was here (in a neighboring county/district) last weeki - met with about a dozen of us - to sound out some possible support for a maybe run for gov if Chris declines.

    Jay's politics are just fine, altho he didn't do a very good job of talking healthcare while he was here or discussing anything else.  No mention of the wars or justice...a bit of environmental.

    My concerns would involve his lack of administrative experience on a large scale and I would want to know more about his experience in the legislature at working with others.  Governor is an executive job requiring strong leadership skills and strong staff with good legislative connections.  Those skills would make Lisa Brown a formidible candidate and I'd be inclined to back her.  (I've known Lisa since '93 when she first came to the House.  Her rise to Senate Majority Leader has been very interesting to watch and her performance has been pretty strong.

    So...who knows?  We shall see.


    Will Rossi run again? (none / 0) (#9)
    by EL seattle on Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 07:42:16 PM EST
    According to Wikipedia...

    Following his defeat in the 2008 gubernatorial election has "unplugged from almost everything political" and began working for a commercial real estate firm in Everett, Washington at the beginning of 2009. Rossi role at the firm is to find investors for income producing properties in Washington and four other Western U.S. states.

    [As with a lot of Wikipedia entries, that cite has to be followed by a prominant (sic) notice.  I mean, jumbled tenses and "Rossi role".  Huh?]

    Anyway, I think that Rossi's new job sounds like the sort of gig that could attract votes in 2012, in a republican-spin "the private sector got the economy working again" spiel.  It could be a really close race again next time.


    Doubt he'll run again but (none / 0) (#10)
    by oldpro on Wed Aug 12, 2009 at 10:14:20 AM EST
    you never know.  A 53-47 loss isn't a close race and aside from the rather tired R spin on all government, Washington under Gregoire has gathered many awards as a well-governed top state in which to do business.

    Rossi's new gig is a lot like his old gig...commercial real estate...and tainted from the start.

    Aside from his brief day in the sun as Ways and Means chair who got undo credit for tweaking Gary Lockie's budget, what has he ever done?  It isn't leadership to take credit for the work of others and Rossi had his chance.  Close call, tho, in the anti-government climate whipped up by the Rs.  Yes...they'll try again...perhaps with Rossi.  Who else do they have?

    The AG.