Superpredator panics, Three Strikes Laws, and other failed reforms

In 2015, before Hilary Clinton was running for president against Donald Trump, what would have happened in the Democratic party had gotten behind Bernie Sanders? Wait, that is a different post.

Remember in 2016 when Hilary was on the campaign trail and coming under scrutiny for her role in popularizing and weaponizing the term "superpredator" to characterize young boys of color, Black, Latino, and other non-white youth to justify a total transformation of society? Scapegoating young people was the lynchpin to spending hundreds of millions of dollars on militarized police, prisons, and the legal infrastructure to lock up generations of young people for generations. In one exchange she mentioned her husband's admission that his support for the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill was a mistake that made the mass incarceration crisis worse. One of the primary tools that the Clintons, Joe Biden, and the vast majority of Republican and Democratic politicians (are there really two parties?) created, refined, expanded, and celebrated – at the state and federal levels – were "three strikes laws." The bad metaphor is as vile as the content.

Related to (Bill) Clinton's aggressive and defensive lamentations, new research is demonstrating what mothers and family members, community organizers, advocates, and lawyers were warning us about all these years: these laws, and the increased budgets on surveillance and organized state violence, would not make society safer. What is needed is food, clothing, shelter, education, accessible and good public transportation, and preventative medical care, for example. But that's yet another post.

A 2022 report by the California Policy Lab found that three strikes laws actually made California society less-safe and were a disaster: "The study found that since 2015, 65% of people who received doubled sentences under three strikes were convicted of a non-serious, non-violent offense. Think three strikes makes us safer? Think again. The California Policy Lab found that harsh three strikes sentencing did not lead to declining crime rates. In fact, other states without three strikes laws saw similar declines in crime rates as California."

"The California Policy Lab is a non-partisan research institute based at the University of California. Our mission is to improve the lives of Californians by generating evidence that transforms public policy. We do this by forming lasting partnerships between government and California's flagship public universities to harness the power of research and administrative data. We focus our work in six policy areas: education, criminal justice reform, poverty and the social safety net, labor and employment, health, and homelessness and high needs populations."