Three Strikes Law: where is justice?

by Pamela Martinez, CIW
I have, unfortunately, joined the ranks of persons convicted of a non-serious or non-violent felony under the three strikes law. I was sentenced to 25 years to life for petty theft with a prior conviction.
I am writing in hopes of initiating a movement in California to amend the three strikes law from its existing broad and overtly punitive guidelines. It’s a politically motivated and extremely punitive shortcoming in the California justice system. The comparison of this law to a game of baseball is in itself indicative of the legal system’s insensitivity to the dignity of a fellow human being. It demonstrates the indecent manipulation by law makers to gain popular acceptance of a law; when carefully examined its implementation exacts cruel and unusual punishment.
The sentencing scheme of the three strikes law destroys the concept of individual justice on which our legal system was founded.
At this time, there are over 22,000 persons incarcerated under the three strikes law for non-serious or non-violent felonies. California has the largest prison population of any state or federal penal system.
Was it the wheels of justice or the wheels of political machinery that duped the voters into believing that three strikes would all but eliminate vicious and heinous crimes? Less than 5% of “strikers” are incarcerated for a serious or violent crime.
It is a “witch hunt” of the new millennium.
Strikers have been portrayed as arising from the dregs of society, but I ask: who truly are the victims of prejudices and inadequacies within the justice system?
I was a paramedic for many years. I helped save many lives. I have not arisen from the dregs of society. Yet my life has been taken away by a sentence analagous to a baseball game. A conviction for what is basically a misdemeanor!
I learned through my years in the classroom that the justice system was instituted to secure the right of individuals to be judged as simply that: individuals. Yet, I was categorized and given a life sentence.
I ask you to support and endorse a revision of the three strikes law by advocating the real interpretation of this law. I ask you to re-incorporate integrity into the name and definition of “justice.” I ask from one human being to another.
A bill will be introduced in 1998, and it is up to us, as citizens, to let our legislators know that we want this law amended. Please help by writing your legislators.
Pamela Martinez

Punishment or Reform: Looking from the Inside Out

by Julan, VSPW
As the patriarchal society renders women worthless, the Department of Corrections empire and politicians render women prisoners worthless. Women in prison are battered into dehumanization with inhumane treatment, medical neglect, death, fear, repercussions if they speak out, if they want rehabilitation, or even cry.
The United States condemns China, Peru and others for inhumane treatment of their prisoners. Yet crimes against humanity in the U.S. carried out on their own people are unrelenting and unabated. This kind of political mindlessness, selfishness, deception and ignorance is perpetual and deleterious to all. It is creating a slowly growing human catastrophe, which will become increasingly more difficult to mend. As a slowly growing cancer is difcult to cure and is normally fatal.
Most people believe that a life-threating disease will never happen to them. However, you may be predisposed to some diseaes. And if you are predisposed to disease and are in the judicial system, your suffering is paramount. The doctor may want to cure your disease – “First do no harm” is the doctors’ oath. The politicians, the judicial system and Department of Corrections continue and increase harm: “Prison is for punment, not entertainment” – Pete Wilson.
The only entertainment occurring here is that of the staff. Engaging in entertainment, they satisfy their egos and insecurities at the expense of our self-esteem, mental health, reform, humanity, dignity, hope, etc. They are not interested in a cure for us. Instead they break demarcations of cruelty and ignorance. They instigate rage, bitterness and resentment. This is what we have to deal with. This is the product of your tax dollars ? paying for their profits and guaranteed recidivism. This is the ideology you are voting for.
Intelligence and awareness work for reform, and these women do desire reform.
You wonder why people pick up the Bible when they become incarcerated. What a more obvious indication that these people are reaching out for help and guidance from a source they know is good. They are exposing their sensitivities, kindness, capacities and loving human nature. In so many cases, their religion is the only pervasive goodness within their environment and upbringing. They know that this is an aspect of life which is positive. They are asking for a cure, not dehumanization and recidivism.
Please vote for politicians with mindfulness and an intelligent approach to the problem of crime and change in the “correctional” system. If the system is reformed and intelligent, in turn, so will the criminals be reformed.