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Three strikes changes look headed for ballot

California’s three-strikes law is one of the toughest in the country. In its current form, when an offender has two previous convictions for serious or violent felonies, any third felony — however minor — must carry a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

It’s a key reason behind the broken, overcrowded money pit known as the California prison system.

Some are seeking to change that.  After failing to pass a ballot initiative that would have changed three-strikes in 2004, some of the same people have come up with another ballot measure to put before voters this fall.

If it passes, a 25 year-to-life sentence would no longer be mandatory for third felony convictions.  Instead, it would require such a stiff sentence only when the third felony was a serious or violent one, or if the person involved had a previous felony for murder, rape or child molestation.

Three-time felons would hardly get off easy, though.  Those who don’t qualify for the harsher sentence would instead serve double time for their third felony conviction.

The change could also affect those already doing time based on three-strikes sentencing.  If a judge deems that a felon is not a threat, for example, he could see his jail time reduced.

This initiative, unlike its 2004 counterpart, has the support of a number of prosecutors, including the San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys.

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