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Does the 3 Strikes Rule Violate the Eighth Amendment?

8th Amendment

There are many different ways to look at the three strikes rule, there is some understanding that needs to be put into play before it can be determined if the 8th amendment is violated or not. Before we can discuss these two items together, let’s understand exactly what they each are.

The three strikes rule or “law” is statues that were enacted by state government officials to impose harsher punishments for repeat offenders who are convicted of three of more serious criminal offenses. Usually this consists of offenses on the felony level, not necessarily ALL felonies.

 The three strikes rule dramatically changes prison sentences typically on felons who have previously been convicted of two or more serious or violent crimes. Also limiting the ability of such offenders to receive punishments other than a life sentence. These offenses can be anything from sexual offenses, burglary, robbery, all the way to murder.

Depending on the seriousness of the past and current committed offenses, the offender could get a sentence anywhere from 25 years to life in prison; usually offenders are given the possibility of life with the chances of parole.

The 8th amendment of the constitution prohibits the federal government from imposing impossibly high bail, cruel and unusual punishment inclusive of torture and excessive fines. While there are sentences for specific crimes that would be deemed cruel and unusual, in cases of the three strikes rule, not necessarily is this the case.

When there is a person who continuously commits the same crime, or escalates to a more violent crime, not always does a cruel punishment come into play. Depending on the crime that was previously committed to what they are now facing the court over, could determine how long someone is sent to prison and if they have the possibility of parole.

While cruel and unusual punishment is typically considered “torture”, not always does this happen. If you have someone who has committed check fraud several times over, which is a felony; and is back in front of the court, they may not necessarily get 25 years to life, they could get no time to several years. However, if this check forger changes it up to robbery or burglary then ups the ante to murder, a “cruel and unusual punishment” may not necessarily be seen as anything but a just sentencing. Murder in itself holds a very high staunch sentence, as to many felonies.

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The three strikes rule is in fact based off of baseball terminology as in “3 strikes you’re out”. The idea and purpose of the three strikes rule is to keep offenders from going back to prison and help encourage rehabilitation. Regardless of age, race or any other discriminatory factors, the three strikes rule is meant for any felon who habitually commits the same crime or goes on to commit more violent and serious crimes, to be “put away” for a specific enough amount of time so they don’t have the option to commit any more crime at all. 

While it may seem that the 8th amendment is violated by this law, they are two totally different topics to discuss. The 8th amendment isn’t specific to felonies, as is the three strikes rule. The 8th amendment more protection for all US citizens to be protected against any court imposing extremely high bail, fines or punishments. The three strikes rule protects the rest of the citizens from any more harm from someone that hasn’t learned their lesson the first or second time.

So three strikes you’re out!! Do not pass go, go directly to jail, do not collect $200. 

Larry Nowak

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