Pubdate: Thu, 11 Mar 1999
Date: 03/11/1999
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Author: Linda Valdivia

Former Assemblyman Jim Morrissey in under the impression that the
"three strikes" law is keeping hardcore criminals of the streets, thus
making our state safer ["Three strikes works," Talk Show, March 7].

Yes, these people committed felonies, not misdemeanors. But are all
felonies equal?

Is the possession of a small amount of methamphetamine or cocaine by
someone who has a drug addiction as serious as attempted murder? Is
stealing three spray-paint cans from a garage as serious as rape? I
don't think so. Those are the two convictions my son has; he is
currently in prison with "two strikes." He is hardly a great danger to
society, and the cost of incarceration is so much higher than the cost
of rehabilitation.

Seventy-five percent of those doing time for second strikes are for
non-violent offenses such as possession of drugs. A study in 1997 by
the Rand Corporation found that forced rehabilitation for drug
offenders is more cost effective than incarceration.

Most people aren't advocating letting murderers and rapists out on the
streets. But if we want room in the prisons for them, we need to
re-look at what we are locking people up for, and revise the law so
that those who are truly a danger to our society are incarcerated, not
petty criminals and drug offenders.

Linda Valdivia
Rancho Cucamonga