THE BLOG
11/06/2012 12:06 pm ET | Updated Jan 06, 2013

Will California Reform Three Strikes?

The United States has the biggest prison population of any country on the planet. And in the country with the most prisoners, California is the state with more incarcerated people than any other.

California's prisons are so overcrowded that the Supreme Court found them in violation of the Eighth Amendment's "cruel and unusual punishment" clause. This election, California voters will have the chance to make two crucial reforms to its troubled prisons and jails.

Proposition 34 would abolish California's death penalty, which critics say has proved far too costly, and replace it with life without parole. A study out of Loyola Marymount University says the death penalty costs taxpayers an extra $134 million a year.

The second reform is Proposition 36, which would reform California's Three Strikes law, which is one of the harshest in the country. While most states require a third strike be a serious felony before triggering a mandatory 25-year to life sentence, California does not and, as a result, has handed out unusually severe sentences for petty thefts and drug possession. In fact, more than 1,300 of California's Third Strikers were sentenced for drug-related offenses.

The video below, produced by Reason TV, takes a look at both the economic, and human, costs of California's harsh Three Strikes law.