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Candidates from large states enjoy a big advantage in presidential elections, and Sen. Kamala Harris is the only major candidate from America’s largest, wealthiest state. Yet she is running in a disappointing fourth-place in California polls. Why?
It’s not a good time to be a law-and-order Democrat in California. There is a backlash against mass incarceration and the policies that led to it — a sentiment which imperils Harris’ campaign.
Decades - Harris - Prosecutor - Murder - Polly
In previous decades Harris, the former prosecutor, would have fared better. After the 1993 murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas by a twice-convicted kidnapper, California voters passed the “Three Strikes” ballot proposition 72 percent 28 percent, and a three strikes bill was also signed into law that same year. From 1982 to 2000, California’s prison population increased 500 percent, rising to nearly 175,000 in 2006.
Californians’ views have changed substantially since. In 1995, Leonardo Andrade, a nine-year army veteran and father of three, was twice caught shoplifting children’s video tapes, including “Snow White,” “Casper,” and “Cinderella.” Andrade was condemned under Three Strikes to consecutive 25 years-to-life sentences. Legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky explained:
Crime - Theft - Misdemeanor - Jail - Sentence
This generally would be regarded as the crime of petty theft, a misdemeanor punishable by a fine, a jail sentence of six months or less, or both … [As of 2003 there were] 344 individuals serving sentences of 25-to-life or more for shoplifting.”
Similarly, in 1995 Jerry Dewayne Williams was sentenced to 25 years to life for stealing a slice of pizza. Williams says he shared a prison cell with a murderer who was serving a shorter sentence than his. Known to the other inmates as “pizza man,” he recalls, “Everybody thought that I had shot a pizza delivery man.”
Injustices - Andrade - Williams - Sentences - Californians
Injustices like Andrade’s and Williams’ sentences helped turn Californians against three strikes. In 2012, voters passed Proposition 36, which amended Three Strikes to exclude most...
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