Proposition 36 would reduce prison sentences for three strike offenders and allow those already serving life terms to be re-sentenced.
Three-time offenders serving life sentences under the Three Strikes law may be released from prison if state voters pass Proposition 36. The Fresno man who co-authored the bill almost twenty years ago is fighting to save it.
In November California voters will get another swing at reforming the Three Strikes law adopted in 1994, which gives third strike offenders a sentence of life in prison.
"The real savings has been in reduced crime. Not only does that reduce the number of crime victims, but it also has reduced the number of criminals," Three Strikes co-author Mike Reynolds said.
Reynolds co-authored the law in his home after his daughter Kimber was shot and killed by a repeat offender in the Tower District twenty years ago.
Now he's fighting to keep the law intact by defeating Proposition 36.
"They are by definition, the most active serious and violent offenders we have in our California state institutions. And Prop 36 would put them right back in the streets," Reynolds said.
If passed, Prop 36 would revise three strikes by imposing life sentences only when a new felony conviction is serious or violent. Prisoners with non-violent felonies already serving life terms under the law would be able to petition the court for a reduced sentence.
"We need to change our prison system, we need to put people in prison who need to be in prison. We need to release people who don't need to be in prison," Three Strikes opponent Bill Simon said.
Social activist Bill Simon supports Prop 36 as a cost-saving measure. According to the legislative analysts' fiscal impact estimate, the state will save $70 to $90 million over the next few decades if voters approve the measure.
"We have to save money on prisons because we're wasting so much that we need on other things," Simon said.
"But they're basing that savings on the premise that this releasing of inmates, they're going to go out and never come back again," Reynolds said.
According to our exclusive Action News poll conducted by Survey USA, forty-three percent of state-wide voters favor Proposition 36. Twenty-three percent oppose it and thirty four percent were not sure.
Those in favor of reforming the three strikes law is much higher here in the Valley, with 50 percent of likely voters in support. But public opinion can change in a matter of weeks.
With one quarter of Valley voters unsure as to where they stand on the measure, they have less than 60 days before the election to figure out which way they'll vote.