Crime and Punishment: Three Strikes and You’re Out

After the 1993 murder of a California child, many states passed laws to lock up repeat offenders for life, but today those laws are raising new questions about how crime is handled in America.

A personal tragedy led to what has been called one of the harshest criminal laws in the country – California’s Three Strikes law. It was meant to lock up the most violent repeat offenders for 25 years to life, but was almost immediately embroiled in controversy.

Using archival footage and interviews with then-Governor Pete Wilson, and former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti, the video explains how the murders of two young girls, Kimber Reynolds and Polly Klaas, ignited the nation’s simmering anger over violent crime and the “revolving door” of justice. By the mid 1990s, Three Strikes laws were adopted by 24 states and the federal government and became emblematic of the movement towards stricter sentencing policies.

But today with crime at historic lows, get-tough laws have raised a whole new set of problems – with no easy answers. And more than anything, these laws are drawing attention to the larger question of how crime is handled in America.

  • Producer: Karen M. Sughrue
  • Reporter: Scott Michels
  • Editor: Anne Alvergue