Three-Strikes Laws in Criminology

At the beginning of the 1990s, the phrase “three-strikes – you’re out!” was very popular in baseball when it was necessary to send a dejected batter back to the dugout (Walsh, 2007). At the end of the 1990s, the same phrase had another meaning popular in the sphere of criminology, when the first “three-strikes” law was offered and passed in 1993. The law provided the state with a chance to “hand down mandatory periods of incarceration of up to life in prison to persons who have been convinced of a serious criminal offence of three or more separate occasions” (Siegel, 2015, p. 119). In other words, if a person convicted of three violent crimes, he/she is sentenced to life in prison without a chance of being paroled.

The government of every American state had its own attitude to the necessity and worth of the law; therefore, the law was not enacted in all states. The idea of the “three-strikes” law was one of the most controversial in the history of criminology because its critics could not come to the same conclusion if it was justified to pay for life imprisonment of people, who did not take care of their actions and the consequences. On the other hand, the idea of life imprisonment seemed to be a good alternative to death sentences. New York was the first state that offered the idea in far 1797. However, it was actually recognized in the middle of the 1990s. California is the state that is known by its serious intention to reduce the number of criminals. In 1994, it was announced that the Californian criminals, who committed even non-violent crimes, had to be sentenced from 25 years to life. Though some governmental representatives admitted the fact that such criteria for imprisonment without parole increased the population in prisons and the necessity to find more money for keeping people in jails, the success of such kind of law was evident. The number of crimes was reduced considerably because people comprehended the price that could pay for their actions.

The “three-strikes” laws turned out to be very useful to law enforcement and prosecutors. For example, it becomes possible to bargain away the three-strike enhancement to get a guilty plea from a criminal because of the fact that a person can hardly be released soon. At the same time, prosecutors have to work hard to provide all necessary elements of a crime including weapon, outcomes, behavior, and even phrases. If some evidence is not defined as serious, the appellation is possible.

I believe that the idea of the “three-strikes” law can become a significant deterrent to any future crime. First, nowadays, more people start thinking about the worth of their freedom and the opportunities they have after being released from prison for the first time. If people made mistakes accidently and have to pay for them by means of imprisonment, they should have a chance to reevaluate their lives and their goals and try to start a new life. However, if a person makes the same mistake for the third time, it is hard to call it accidental. It is a crime that has to be punished and prevented by any means. People do not have the right to end up someone’s life. It is my opinion. However, the idea of freedom deprivation because of the inability or unwillingness to live a normal legally obedient life can be justified as a chance to help other people be safe.


Siegel, L.J. (2015). Criminology: Theories, patterns, and typologies (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Walsh, J.E. (2007). Three Strikes Laws. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

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