Neil Nisperos, Staff Writer
Created: 04/30/2012 03:31:53 PM PDT

View: Initiative

The newly proposed three-strikes initiative to scale back California’s tough sentencing law has gotten opposing reactions from two local district attorneys.

Supporters, who submitted more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, bagged the endorsement of the measure by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley.

However, San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos is not one of those supporters.

“I don’t think this is necessary,” Ramos said. “All of the district attorneys that I know, we use our discretion. We don’t file three strikes on every person. We take a look at every record.”

Supporters of the initiative point out that about 26 states have three-strikes laws, but California is the only one that allows prosecutors to charge any felony as a third strike, which carries a sentence of 25-years-to-life.

The proposed measure would reserve the toughest penalty – 25 years to life – for the baddest of the bad. It would allow only certain hard-core criminals, including murderers, rapists and child molesters, to be put away for life for any felony offense, including shoplifting, while restricting the third strike to a serious or violent felony for everyone else.

Under the existing law, offenders who have committed such relatively minor third strikes as stealing a pair of socks, attempting to break into a soup kitchen to get something to eat and forging a check for $146 at Nordstrom have been sentenced to life in prison.

The initiative is modeled on Cooley’s attempt in 2006 to modify the law and his long-standing policy to rarely seek a third strike unless the offense is a violent or serious crime.

“The Three Strikes Reform Act is right for California,” Cooley said in a written statement.

“It will ensure that the punishment fits the crime. Dangerous recidivist criminals will remain behind bars for life, and our overflowing prisons will not be clogged with inmates who pose no risk to public safety.”

Ramos says the three-strikes provision, which increases punishment significantly with the third conviction of a crimes, is working.

“With all due respect to my friend Steve Cooley, I don’t think we need to touch three-strikes,” he said.

“First, the FBI statistics in the last couple of years for serious and violent felonies have been reduced by putting the worst of the worst in state prisons.

“Secondly, when three-strikes came out in 1994, we had hundreds of three-strikes cases. These were career criminals who are now in state prisons. Fast forward to now, three-strikes cases have gone down because career criminals are no longer committing crimes.

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