The Coastal Post - February 2000

Move To Amend Three Strikes Law

By Sam H. Clauder II

A new initiative entitled "The Three Strikes Act of 2000" has been filed with the Attorney General's office. If approved by the voters next November, it would amend California's three strikes law to apply only to violent and/or serious felonies. This is the second initiative to be filed to amend the three strikes law.

The Attorney General's office is due to release the title and summary for the initiative on December 16, after which the proponents will have five months to collect 450,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. It was originally filed on October 22, and was being re-written until the final language was filed last Friday, November 12.

The initiative's purposes claim it will "protect the people by ensuring greater punishment and longer prison sentences for those who commit violent and/or serious felonies." It "makes no changes in existing law, other than to specify that only violent and/or serious felonies qualify for increased punishment due to prior strike convictions, and to require that no more than one strike be applied to each criminal act."

The initiative proponent is Sam H. Clauder II, a Garden Grove-based political consultant who worked on behalf of the original three strikes law, but has a had a change of heart. In 1994, Clauder collected signatures to place the initiative on the ballot. He also campaigned for its election, donated money to it, and voted for it.

"I was fed up with a system that gave more rights to criminals than it did to the victims," Clauder explained. "So, like millions of other Californians, I supported the three strikes law because I thought it would keep violent, heinous criminals, like the ones that slaughtered Polly Klaas and Kimber Reynolds, off the streets.

"Unfortunately, I was wrong. The current three strikes law allows any crime, even ones that should be misdemeanors, to be prosecuted as a third strike. So now we have thousands of people in prison, for 25-years-to-life, for such petty crimes as stealing a loaf of bread, a slice of pizza, a bottle of vitamins, or forging a small check.

"This is not appropriate justice. Neither is it good public policy because it costs the state more than eight hundred million dollars a year. This situation must be corrected and that can only be done by a vote of the people."

Clauder drafted the initiative with help from various public defenders, district attorneys, judges, and some crime victims. "Families to Amend California's Three Strikes," or FACTS, a three-year-old organization dedicated to amending the three strikes law, has officially endorsed the initiative.

A new political action committee, "Citizens Against Organized Crime," is being formed to manage the campaign. Further information, and copies of the initiative, are available from Citizens Against Violent Crime by calling (714)543-6400.

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