The Human Cost Of "Three Strikes" Laws

Empty prison cell
Zain Murdock
August 26, 2021

Cheryl Lidel was sexually assaulted as a young girl, and turned to drugs to cope. In 2010, a bad heroin withdrawal sent her to a local Subway, where she took money from the register. She then went to buy more drugs. 

Did she get help with drug addiction? No – she got life in prison.

Starting in California in the 1990s “three strikes laws” made the imprisonment rate for African-Americans skyrocket within just a couple years. Essentially, these laws mean that if people commit three felonies, they’ll spend the rest of their lives in prison.

What kinds of felonies classify?

Leandro Andrade was a 37-year-old who needed help with substance abuse – instead, he got put away for LIFE for stealing some children’s movies for his nieces. He didn’t even have a weapon on him – but those were his last two “strikes.” 

This type of story is unfortunately common.

Gary Ewing tried to steal three golf clubs by sticking them down his pant legs. He begged the court to classify his robbery as a misdemeanor instead of a felony – but because of “three strikes,” they sentenced him to 25-to-life instead.

What these three people needed was help with their problems or money for survival – not to die alone in a cell. The real issue here is poverty – giving people a life sentence for survival crimes doesn't solve that problem!

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