Majority black inmates in Washington have been excluded from reforms to the “three strikes” statute for life imprisonment, denying them the opportunity to be resentenced.
What We Know…
- The statute is part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and is meant to contain recidivism by requiring any convicted felon who has been convicted of a “serious violent felony” and has at least two previous convictions to serve life in prison.
- “Serious violent felonies” include murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, kidnapping, robbery and any crime with a punishment exceeding ten years.
- The law was first enacted in Washington in 1993 and has since been copied in more than half of the US. It is meant to enforce a governmental “tough-on-crime” attitude. Many states have begun scaling back the law because it was punishing certain inmates with disproportionate severity.
- Reform to the law in Washington passed earlier this year allowing for the resentencing of inmates who had been sentenced life in prison with one of their “three strikes” being second-degree robbery. Washington Governor and Presidential Candidate Jay Inslee signed a law revoking resentencing rights on April 29.
- The reform will, indeed, eliminate second-degree robbery as a “strike” in this legislation but will not allow for inmates already sentenced to appeal their sentence.
- The result of this is a small group of inmates in Washington who are excluded from reforms that will benefit similar criminals in the future, and a majority of these inmates are black.
- These inmates would have had a chance at resentencing earlier this year but lost this opportunity with Inslee’s April reform.
This move by Inslee plays into the national discourse about unfair incarceration double-standards that imprison disproportionate amounts of black citizens.