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Change to CA three-strikes law qualifies for November ballot

April 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
In communities of color across California, churches have played a big role in gathering signatures for an initiative to change the state's 1994 three-strikes law.

They say it's too tough to put away criminals who've committed two serious crimes, but are locked up for 25 years to life on a third minor offense, like stealing food because they were hungry.

South Los Angeles Reverend Doug Nelson says families are left without husbands, sons and brothers.

"It decimates our community because individuals are ripped from our community when they can be making economic and educational advancements," he said.

The three-strikes initiative would change the law so that the third strike would also have to be a serious or violent crime. An estimated 3,000 of the 8,000 three-strikers behind bars today would be eligible for reduced sentences.

It could eventually save taxpayers $100 million dollars a year. But one of the inspirations of three-strikes is furious.

Mike Reynolds daughter was murdered, and he finds it offensive that supporters of changing the law chose to submit signatures during National Crime Victims Week, He says three-strikes is what's keeping Californians safe.

"Every citizen in this state is benefitting from half the crime rates after the passage of this," he said. "Would you want any of these offenders to live next door to you?"

A similar three-strikes initiative almost passed in 2004 until then-Governor Schwarzenegger aired last minute attack ads, and the proposal eventually failed. Then-Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown also opposed it.

It's unclear which side now-Governor Brown will support, but he is close to a number of faith-based groups.

Oakland Pastor George Cummings says churches have a better shot this time because they're getting smarter politically.

"We're trying to indentify about 600,000 new or infrequent voters who we believe, if we can get them to the polls, can turn around many of these decisions," he said.


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