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20 U. Dayton L. Rev. 717 (1994-1995)
Three-Strikes-and-You're-Out - Mandatory Life Imprisionment for Third Time Felons

handle is hein.journals/udlr20 and id is 725 raw text is: THREE-STRIKES-AND-YOU'RE-OUT-
MANDATORY LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR THIRD
TIME FELONS
Nkechi Taifa*
I. INTRODUCTION
In 1994, politicians swept the nation with election-driven proposals that
sounded snazzy but failed to have any real impact on crime. The catchy baseball
metaphor three strikes and you're out is the latest expression of such non-
reasoned, knee-jerk approaches to fighting crime.
Generally speaking, three-strikes provisions impose a mandatory life
sentence without parole on offenders convicted of a third violent offense. In
many instances such measures are constitutionally suspect, impose automatic life
imprisonment for relatively minor crimes that may not warrant so harsh a
penalty, and have the potential to disproportionately impact African Americans
and other people of color. These proposals constitute bad public policy. They
are unnecessary due to existing state habitual offender laws and federal
sentencing guidelines for repeat or career criminals. They expensively retain
low-risk geriatric prisoners without a corresponding benefit to society. They fail
to effectively curb the crime rate, and, in some instances, may actually increase
violent crime in America.
II. EARLY CONGRESSIONAL PROPOSALS
Prior to final passage of The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement
Act of 1994 various three-strikes proposals were considered by the 103d
Congress. Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.)
introduced proposals which were adopted on November 19, 1993 as part of
omnibus crime legislation passed by the Senate (H.R. 3355). On November 3,
1993 Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) introduced the Three-Time Loser
Act of 1993 (H.R. 3424) in the House of Representatives.
These early proposals mandated the automatic life imprisonment of every
defendant convicted of a third separate violent felony after two prior state or
federal violent felony convictions. The definition of violent felony included
offenses against property and crimes not actually involving violence. In
describing the term violent felony, these proposals referred to 18 U.S.C. § 16,
which defines a violent felony as a crime involving the threatened or actual use
* Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union.

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