What does "Three Strikes" mean in crime?

Hi Jesse,
I'm a 15-year old Dutch girl, who has to write a script about Al Gore. And I've a problem, at his site I read something about 'Three strikes' (Three strikes should apply only to truly violent crimes). The problem is that I don't know what this means! Please explain it to me, so I can go on with my script.
Thanks, Ynske.

JesseGordon gave this response on 3/10/2000:

Dear Ynske,
You've stumbled into the wonderful world of Baseball Metaphors! As you may know, baseball is The American Sport, as much as soccer is in the Netherlands. Politicians love to use baseball metaphors because it makes them sound down-to-earth.

"Three strikes" in baseball means that the batter (player from team A) has missed three pitches from the pitcher (player from opposing team B), so he's "out" (move on to the next player from team A). That's good for team B, and bad for team A. The baseball phrase is "three strikes and you're out."

The metaphor in crime policy for "three strikes and you're out" means if you get caught in three different crimes, you're "out", which in this case means you go to jail for a very long time, or for the rest of your life.

The candidates differ in which crimes qualify for the "three strikes" rule, and on what constitutes a "strike," but basically, supporting "three strikes" rules means that the candidate wants to appear "tough on crime" by removing judicial discretion. "Judicial discretion" means that the judge gets to decide how long to sentence a criminal for -- based on whatever criteria the judge considers relevant (like, severity of the crime, the criminal's character, etc). "Three strikes" means, regardless of any extenuating circumstances, and regardless of whether the judge believes the criminal can be rehabilitated, the criminal must go to jail for life.

madpol asked this question on 8/29/2000:

In 1995, Da Shrub launched an all-out assault on crime in The Lone Star State. Convictions were made easier to obtain and sentences got longer. Executions were put on an accelerated timetable.

As a result, Texas now executes nearly as many criminals as all other states combined and has the largest prison population in America. Roughly one out of 20 adult Texans are currently behind bars.

So, it came as a shock when the FBI crime figures for 1999 were released this week. Nationally, serious crime is down an average of 10.4%. The reduction in Texas? 5.1%, less than half the National average in crime reduction.

What does this do to Bush's election chances? And is there a general movement toward believing that convicting the right people is more important than high conviction rates?

stevehaddock gave this response on 8/29/2000:

I have one correction to make, the figure of 1 Texan in 20 also includes parolees and those on probation. Still, Texas's rate is higher than every other state and the crime rate is still higher than most other places, even those that have done nothing.

Still, the public perception is that crime, and violent crime in particular, is on the rise. It is doubtful that this will change in the near future.

One thing that would be fatal to the Bush campaign is if one of the executed men turned out to be innocent. That is not likely to happen anytime soon. However, if he is elected, it could come up during his term and severely damage his ability to function as chief executive.

madpol rated this answer:

There are no investigations that I'm aware of currently. But it's bound to happen sooner or later.

I'm surprised Larry Flynt hasn't tried to reopen those cases yet.

JesseGordon responded:

... [real costs of "tough on crime" = more prisons, more criminal mentality]

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