California's Crime Policy Way off Base

This article demonstrates precisely what is wrongheaded about California's odious ``Three Strikes'' statute. The statute completely abandons a core principle of justice: proportionality. The author argues that although ``some crimes horrify us more than others ... that does not mean some crimes are more tolerable than others.'' The issue, however, is not tolerance of crime but treatment of criminals.

Under the new law, a person who, having committed two residential burglaries, decides to commit a third will receive exactly the same punishment as a person who, also having committed two residential burglaries, decides to commit a forcible rape. In essence, the policy of ``Three Strikes'' is that all felonies (except those for which death can be imposed) should be punished equally.

The question for all Americans is not whether we should ``begin moving toward zero tolerance of crime.'' Indeed, such an approach seems to lead to a ``one strike'' statute, under which any person convicted of any crime would be permanently incarcerated (unless executed). The question, rather, is whether we are willing to treat all felonies as equally heinous, regardless of whether a particular criminal act endangered no one or resulted in serious bodily harm or even death. Andrew G. Dulaney, San Francisco

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