Case #1908.0

The "Three Strikes" Law in California: The Ballot Initiative

Publication Date: November 03, 2009
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In November 1994, California voters were presented with a ballot initiative on a proposed "three strikes" measure, which would impose stiff penalties on repeat offenders. Under the terms of Proposition 184, offenders with one or two violent or serious felonies on their records would get much longer sentences for second or third felony crimes--in the case of a third strike, a term of 25 years to life; moreover, these repeat crimes did not have to be violent or serious to qualify as a strike. Although California already had a three strikes law on its books, a voter-approved initiative would make it difficult for future lawmakers to tamper with the bills tough provisions. This case consists of three parts. The first provides background on the California three strikes law, and then briefly describes the proponents and opponents of the ballot measure, and the arguments each side put forward.

Learning Objective:
The first and second parts can be used to motivate discussion of the political activities of groups with concentrated interests in an issue and the implications for collective choices in a democracy.

Other Details

Case Author:
Esther Scott
Faculty Lead:
John D. Donahue
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Robert G. Wilmers Local & State Government Case Studies Fund