Since 1980 America has seen a drastic increase in crime, and some may tell you that California's Three-Strikes Law is the best way to prevent such crime. Adopted by California in 1994, the Three-Strikes Law states that felons found guilty of a third crime are incarcerated for 25 years to life. Supporters of this law argue that it is necessary to protect society from violent career criminals by to deterring future crimes and incapacitating known offenders so that they cannot continue their crime spree. But, after nine years in effect, the Three-Strikes law has not deterred criminals, instead it has diverted government funding from education in a state where funding for education is already at a minimum.
Supporters of the Three Strikes law will cite that it has reduced crime rates throughout the state. However, application and enforcement of the law is not reflected in decreased crime. In fact enforcement is inversely proportional with crime reduction. Studies report a 21.3% drop in crime in the six California counties which have enforced the law the most leniently, while the toughest counties demonstrated a mere 12.7% drop in crime. This suggests that the Three-Strikes law does not successfully deter crime, though it may serve to incapacitate criminals from committing more potentially dangerous offenses. However such an incarceration comes at a price. .
The longer sentences from the Three-Strikes law have flooded prisons with non-violent offenders, costing tax payers billions of dollars. In fact, the office of correctional facilities has planned construction of 21 prisons over the next five years in order to house the overflow of prisoners, at the cost of 40 billion dollars. Annual maintenance and operation costs are estimated at an additional 5.5 billion dollars a year. Currently the government pays $26,894 a year or $672,350 for a twenty-five year sentence per inmate. This average includes those convicted for petty-theft as their 3rd strike.