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What Is the Three Strikes Law?

In baseball, a batter has 3 opportunities to hit the ball in an attempt to secure a home run. However, if the batter fails after 3 opportunities to hit the baseball, he or she strikes out. Thus, the threes strikes law derives its name from baseball, and addresses the issue of sentencing for individuals who are guilty of having committed 3 or more separate accounts of serious criminal offenses. The offender is given the latitude of 3 strikes before he or she is considered out of society and into prison. This law ensures that criminals who are of the aforementioned description are given a minimum of a prison sentence upon another criminal violation.

States across the US have enacted various forms of the three strikes law, most of which involve a sentence of life imprisonment upon conviction of a third felony and a possibility of parole only after a prison term of 25 years.

Many arguments have been formed by those for the three strikes law and those opposing it. Those who argue in favor of a three strikes law state that it lessens the crime rate and the possibility of offenders to commit another crime. However, those who are opposed to this piece of state legislation argue that it is a harsh and cruel punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits any cruel and unusual punishment. This issue was addressed by US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in her plurality in Ewing wherein she stated that it is enough for a state government to apply the law within reason.

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