On Thursday, October 22, the Judicial Reform Committee of the United African-American Ministerial Action Council (UAAMAC) will host a town hall meeting on Califiornia’s three strikes law to encourage a change in sentencing practices. Panelists will include Karen Bass, Speaker of the Assembly, Assembly member Lori Saldana (D-San Diego), Bishop George D. McKinney, Frank Courser and Sue Reams, Families to Amend California Three Strikes.
"In these trying economic times. it is imperative that we examine these laws,” UAAMAC’s press release states. California's Three Strikes Law is the toughest law in the nation; California incarcerates four times more inmates as all other three strikes states combined. Supporters of the laws note that a small percentage of offenders are responsible for the majority of crimes. But a growing number of people now argue that California's law has gone too far, locking up not only violent repeat criminals, but also imposing life sentences on people guilty of nonviolent offenses such as shoplifting.
According to UAAMAC, over 40,000 inmates in California (one fourth of the total prison population) are now serving double time or life sentences. Those include 690 serving life for drug possession, 351 for shoplifting and 181 for receiving stolen property. Until this law passed, no person in the history of the United States had ever been sentenced to life for shoplifting, UAAMAC reports.
Reforming sentencing laws could also save taxpayers money in an era when California is suffering massive budget shortfalls and a federal judge has ordered the state to release some prisoners due to overcrowding in state prisons.
“Nearly 25 percent of the inmate population is incarcerated under the three strike law-which requires individuals to serve longer terms,” the UAAMAC release notes. “We estimate the cost to the State of the increase in sentence length for these inmates will total $19.2 billion over the duration of their sentences.”
The event will be held at St. Stephens Cathedral, 5825 Imperial Ave., San Diego at 6 p.m. on October 22.