In 2012, Massachusetts became the 27th state to implement a “three strikes” law, making criminals who have been convicted three times of specific crimes ineligible for parole, forcing them to serve their full sentence. While the bill was touted as only affecting “habitual offenders,” it has been criticized for its lack of judicial discretion and dramatic increase in the types of crimes (1 to 19) for which an offender could be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Below we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of the three strikes law in Massachusetts.
What Are the Pros of a Three Strikes Law?
1. Repeat offenders are discouraged from committing crimes.
If a criminal knows they face the potential of life in prison (or a lengthy sentence without parole) for their next crime, they are less likely to commit a crime.
2. Communities are improved
Locked up repeat offenders and criminals who are discouraged to commit crime reduces the crime rate in cities and towns all across the state. Not only does this reduce costs (medical care, police activity, etc.), it also brings security and new opportunities to families that need it the most.
3. It provides justice for victims
A victim may fear having their offender return one day to commit the same crime, especially when it comes to rape or theft. Although there are chances for rehabilitation, the three strikes law help protect the victims from the most violent offenders.
What Are the Cons of a 3 Strikes Law?
1. People with non-violent felonies may qualify
Many people who have committed non-violent felonies (and sometimes misdemeanors) have been given mandatory life sentences. Petty crime should never result in life imprisonment when there are better options such as therapy.
2. It assumes rehabilitation will not work
Repeat offenders oftentimes suffer from mental health issues. Instead of putting our trust into therapists and doctors, the courts slam the gavel down on those who may need help.
3. Prison costs go up
The more people are prosecuted, the higher the costs are for the state’s court system. Who ends up paying for these costs? The taxpayer does.