Report: Freed 3-Strikes Inmates Have Low Recidivism Rate

But the authors raised alarms about a lack of housing, substance abuse and other types of reentry programs available to third-strikers released from prison.
September 11, 2013

More than 1,000 inmates previously sentenced to life in prison have been freed since voters approved changes to California's three-strikes law in November, with only a handful charged with new offenses since their release, according to a report released Monday.

The authors of the report, who helped write and campaign for the ballot initiative, said third-strikers released under Proposition 36 have a lower recidivism rate than other prisoners freed on parole, helping save the state millions of dollars by opening up space in crowded prisons without jeopardizing public safety.

But the authors raised alarms about a lack of housing, substance abuse and other types of reentry programs available to third-strikers released from prison. And they expressed concern that L.A. County has been lagging behind other counties in clearing its backlog of cases in which inmates are seeking release under the ballot measure.

More than 2,000 inmates statewide are awaiting court decisions on whether they should be resentenced under the proposition. More than 800 of those have filed requests in L.A. County, the report said.

"There are so many prisoners who are sitting in prison waiting to be released, and even those who are released don't have the benefit of the kinds of rehabilitation and reentry services that are desperately needed," said David Mills, a Stanford University law professor who was a prime backer of the proposition.

The ballot measure, which won 69% of the statewide vote, allows many third-strikers to seek shorter prison terms if their third strikes were for non-serious, nonviolent crimes. Under the new law, judges must reduce the sentences for eligible inmates unless doing so would endanger the public.

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