This Election Day brought good news to families burdened by California’s harsh and imbalanced sentencing laws. By a margin of 68.6% to 31.4%, state voters passed Proposition 36 to limit three-strikes sentencing to cases where the third offense is violent or serious. Previously, a third felony conviction could trigger a life sentence even for minor and nonviolent offenses, such as writing a bad check or (in the case of my friend “Conway“) receiving a stolen motorcycle. (By contrast, the maximum sentence for rape in California is 8 years.)
Besides altering the sentencing guidelines going forward, Prop 36 created a mechanism for the nearly 3,000 inmates serving life sentences under the old three-strikes law to petition for a reduced sentence. My hope is that this will spell early release for Conway, who currently has 5 years left to serve.