It didn’t take long. Voters in California last month approved Proposition 36, which amends the state’s draconian Three Strikes law to require that a third strike be a serious or violent felony, and last week, the first person to be released under the initiative walked out of prison.
Prop 36 will help reducing overcrowding in California prisons (US Supreme Court)
Kenneth Corley, 62, had been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1996 after being convicted of drug possession for sale. His previous two felony “strikes” were convictions for burglary and attempted burglary. Per Prop 36, he was entitled to seek resentencing, and a San Diego judge resentenced him to 15 years and ordered him released with time served.
Thousands of inmates are doing decades in prison under the state’s Three Strikes law, which until it was amended last month by voters, allowed sentences of up to life for a third felony offense even if the crime was something as trivial as drug possession or stealing a pizza.
Not all inmates eligible to seek sentence reductions under Prop 36 will get them. Judges reviewing their cases are required to decide whether releasing them would present a risk to public safety. If so, they will not get a sentence reduction. But the new law should still benefit thousands of other Three Strikes prisoners, as well as preventing people who committed trivial third felonies from being sentenced under the law.