California “Three Strikes” Law Imprisons Many With Substance Abuse Problems
Many California inmates imprisoned under the state’s “three strikes” laws are much more likely than the general prison population to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The three strikes law allows prosecutors the option to pursue a 25-year-to-life sentence for anyone who has at least two previous violent or serious felonies, who is convicted of a new felony—whether or not the third crime is violent or serious. Home burglary is considered a serious felony.
Data from the state prisons department, which compiled the psychological, substance abuse and education profiles of thousands of inmates, shows the need for substance abuse treatment is overwhelming among those serving two or three strike sentences, the article states.
Two-thirds of inmates with a third strike show a high need for substance abuse treatment, compared with about half of all inmates. For inmates whose third strike was a burglary, 76 percent are at high risk for substance abuse.
Only 15 to 20 percent of state inmates receive drug treatment, even though up to half of the prison population shows a need for it, the newspaper notes. Funding for prison rehabilitation spending has been cut in the past few years. State officials have said they plan to expand drug treatment so it will reach up to 70 percent of those who need it.
California voters will decide next month whether to change the three strikes law, which is regarded as the nation’s toughest sentencing law for repeat criminals. The measure would limit life sentences to inmates who committed serious and violent crimes.