California's 3 strikes law, the harshest, most punitive statute anywhere in what's known as the civilized world, became part of the criminal code after voters approved it as an initiative in 1994. As the proposed law was being written, voters were told it would apply to violent offenses only, but the actual initiative churned out life sentences for the theft of pizza, toiletries, etc. Addicts were sent away for life for possessing one dime ($10) bag of heroin. I wish I were making this up. A huge percentage of people who approved the initiative in '94 were unaware of the bait and switch. The truth was buried in a deluge of TV ads and talk radio blather. But the people sentenced unfairly still sit in prison, and more are added all the time.
Every time we try to amend the 3 strikes atrocity the state's prison guards union and its allies bombard the air waves with ads that misinform viewers, claiming that any change in the law will put thousands of dangerous criminals on the streets. Our "liberal" Governor Jerry Brown is among the guards' key supporters. He's also the single biggest recipient of their campaign donations. So the truth gets buried, and the guards score another victory, getting the overtime they wanted. There's no big institution that has a financial stake in securing justice for the people wasting away in prison courtesy of our nutty criminal code and prosecutors who love to score points. The guards' treasury wins every time.
Even if you think you understand what this horrific law does, you probably don't know how extensive are the cruelties buried inside it. Watch this 5-minute New York Times video (link below) to see the results in human terms. It's dumbfounding. Californians, please vote yes on Proposition 36 next month to begin amending this medieval law that's already sent thousands of people to prison for life for nonviolent, trivial offenses. And if you live outside California, make sure crazies don't get away with passing this kind of evil legislation in your state.
Causes Ivan Goldman Supports
American Heart Association
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Beit T'Shuvah Recovery Program