Los Angeles Judge Begins Cutting Three Strikes Sentences

119078180LOS ANGELES – A Superior Court judge has reduced sentences of five three-strikes inmates as a first step in carrying out a voter-approved initiative to soften the state’s tough sentencing law.

Proposition 36 was overwhelmingly approved by voters. It provides for reducing sentences for relatively minor crimes under a law that sent inmates to prison for 25 years to life if they racked up three convictions.

Complaints about the law focused on third-strike sentences for minor offenses. The new law allows inmates with non-serious and non-violent offenses to apply for shorter sentences.

The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 1,000 offenders have applied for shortened sentences since the law passed in November.

Judge William C. Ryan, who is reviewing all the requests, reduced five sentences, including that of a 74-year-old man who has served more than 15 years for possessing $10 worth of drugs and an 81-year-old who served 17 years for stealing cigarettes.

The men have already served more time than their reduced sentences and will be released within a few days, the Times said.

Ryan said the requests have been coming in “like a hurricane.”

Prosecutors who reviewed the men’s criminal records found they were suitable for release without unreasonable risk of danger to the public. One prosecutor suggested they should be placed under supervision of probation officers. Ryan said he agreed but could not add such a requirement because the men have already served more than their new terms.

About 2,800 three-strike prisoners throughout California are eligible to ask for reduced sentences with an estimated 1,050 in Los Angeles County.

The judge is expected to reconsider sentences of 1,000 inmates in hearings likely to continue through the year, the Times said.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com