After the 1993 murder of a California child, many states passed laws to lock up repeat offenders for life, but today those laws are raising new questions about how crime is handled in America.

Get our weekly newsletter

Crime and Punishment: Three Strikes and You’re Out

Reporter: Scott Michels

A personal tragedy led to what has been called one of the harshest criminal laws in the country – California’s Three Strikes law. It was meant to lock up the most violent repeat offenders for 25 years to life, but was almost immediately embroiled in controversy.

Using archival footage and interviews with then-Governor Pete Wilson, and former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, the video explains how the murders of two young girls, Kimber Reynolds and Polly Klaas, ignited the nation’s simmering anger over violent crime and the “revolving door” of justice. By the mid 1990s, Three Strikes laws were adopted by 24 states and the federal government and became emblematic of the movement towards stricter sentencing policies.

But today with crime at historic lows, get-tough laws have raised a whole new set of problems – with no easy answers. And more than anything, these laws are drawing attention to the larger question of how crime is handled in America.


More on the Story

Clemency and a call for reform for three-strikes lawThe Seattle Times
Bill Clinton Concedes His Crime Law Jailed Too Many for Too LongThe New York Times
Supreme Court strikes down part of federal law used to add prison time for repeat offendersU.S. News & World Report
Out of Prison, and Staying Out, After 3rd Strike in California
Retro Report: The Making of ‘Three Strikes’ LawsThe Takeaway
Related Coverage
Born of Grief, ‘Three Strikes’ Laws Are Being RethoughtThe New York Times
How A Personal Tragedy Created '3 Strikes And You're Out'The Huffington Post
These Two Murders Helped Turn America Into The Prison Capital Of The World Business Insider
Karen Sughrue: “Crime and Punishment: Three Strikes and You’re Out”Chris Riback's Conversations with Thinkers