Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Career Criminals Targeted: the Verdict is in, California's Three Strikes Law Proves Effective

26 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2010  

Naomi Goodno

Pepperdine University School of Law

Date Written: 2006


Since its inception, California's Three Strikes law has generated controversy. Aimed at incarcerating career criminals, it has been tagged as one of the toughest "tough on crime" statutes in the country. This article reviews the Three Strikes law over the last decade and concludes that, based on data that have been collected and the manner in which the law has been applied, it has proved effective. The first section of the article explores the history behind the legislation and the law itself. The second part of the article sets forth three reasons why the Three Strikes law has proved effective: (1) The Three Strikes law is carrying out its goals by incapacitating career criminals and deterring crime. Since its enactment California's crime rate has dropped, and, for the first time in eighteen years, parolees are leaving the state. (2) Contrary to initial concerns, the Three Strikes law has been implemented without substantially increasing state costs or overcrowding prisons. (3) The Three Strikes law has built-in safeguards that allow trial judges and prosecutors to exercise discretion to ensure that the law targets those who are career criminals. This discretion has been successfully exercised throughout the state. This is evidenced by the fact that most incarcerated third-strikers who are serving sentences of twenty-five years to life committed more than three serious or violent felonies.

Keywords: Three Strikes, felony, crime, criminal, sentence, serious, violent, parole, life, prosecute, prison, discretion, judicial, judge, law, statute, California

Suggested Citation

Goodno, Naomi mname, Career Criminals Targeted: the Verdict is in, California's Three Strikes Law Proves Effective (2006). Golden Gate University Law Review, Vol. 37, 2006. Available at SSRN:

Naomi Goodno (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views