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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Massachusetts' "Three-Strikes" Law In The Works

Passed by both the House and Senate, the new “three strikes” law will force repeat offenders to serve tougher sentences for violent crimes. If passed, the law eradicates parole for someone who has at least one conviction with a minimum three year prison term and has been convicted three times for one of 35 violent crimes.

The law passed in the Senate 31-7 and 139-14 in the House.

The initiative to pass the bill was a result of two specific cases. In one case, a Woburn police officer was murdered by a felon in 2010 and in the other case a school teacher was raped and murdered in 1999 by a felon with 27 previous convictions. The ladder case resulted in what is known today as “Melissa’s Law.”

Besides cracking down on violent criminals, the law would soften mandatory sentencing on drug offenses that are nonviolent. It would also reduce the size of school zones since most urban areas reside largely within them.

This new law has made some concerned since it leads to an increase in incarcerations and prison costs, but only slightly effects the states crime rate. Anyone convicted of a second violent felony will be forced to carry out two-thirds of their sentence (verses the current half) before being eligible for parole. Anyone convicted of one of the 35 specific violent crimes as a third offense would be required to serve the maximum penalty for the crime.

The over crowding of the jails, coupled with the cost that taxpayers will incur isn’t boding well for Massachusetts residents. Studies have even shown that three-strikes laws may not be that effective in deterring violent crime. With every 10% increase in incarcerations, there is a 2 to 4% drop in crime, according to "Three Strikes: The Wrong Way to Justice," a report released in June, 2012 by Harvard Law School.”

Governor Patrick has until July 31 to approve or reject the legislation.