The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
7 Points

California should eliminate its "three-strikes" law

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/30/2011 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,709 times Debate No: 16223
Debate Rounds (5)
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Hey guys! So I noticed that the challenge period is basically empty, so I decided to post this topic. Con should follow these rules, and if not, he or she CANNOT win. Sorry for the "a bit rude" style of stating rules. Sorry. Anyway:

Round 1: I'd like to know who I'm debating against. Please do not post any arguments.
Round 2: As usual, arguments, counter arguments, sources, etc.
Round 3: Same as Round 2.
Round 4: Same as Round 2 and 3.
Round 5: Please do not post any arguments, as it unbalances the "fair" system. Just state why you won or lost.

Thank you for reading all of these rules, Con and the voters.

As for the definitions, they should be self explanatory. Please do not be those people who like to fool around with definitions. You know who I'm talking about. Me. Just kidding. Thank you.


Firstly, thank you to the instigator for filling the debate pool with a worthy topic of discussion. I have been looking to get back into the game for a while, but haven't found anything of merit to debate.

Secondly, I hope we can both learn from each other and have a civil, productive debate. On that note, as per the instigator's rules, I will defer to him to begin. Good luck.
Debate Round No. 1


Thank you, Brock_Meyer, for accepting this debate.

As the instigator, I will bring up my points for Round 2.

We already have a justice system created. The court was created to analyze the situation and judge on what the punishment would be for the person who commited it. When we have this "three strikes" law, it destroys the court system, along with the juries, judges, and lawyers, because the convict would not be punished until the last strike.

Tying back to the justice system, judges and lawyers will lose money, and there will be more people out in the streets starving. There will also be more fights around the city or state, because the convict is not punished for a violent act or so, so this will also be a problem. Riots and grudges will start, and peace will slowly vanish.

Prisions will overflow. Minor crimes like taking someone else's pizza three times in a row deserves years in prision? No. That's unjust.

This law also violates the Constitution. The 8th Amendment says that the state cannot provide "cruel" punishment, and this is clearly an unjust punishment to the innocent. 25 years in jail? What the heck?

I ask Brock_ Meyer: Why should people who perform violent crimes be tolerated three times?

Thank you for reading.



Thank you and good luck to Brock_Meyer!


Before I begin, I would like to state that in this discussion, Pro has the burden of proof. In 1994, California passed Proposition 184, which put "three-strikes" laws on the books in that state. It has since survived constitutional challenges in the Supreme Court and similar laws have appeared in over 21 other states[1]. So far, these laws have not "destroyed the court system, along with the juries, judges, and lawyers", as my opponent has argued. Additionally, these laws have not produced riots or grudges by any measurable degree and peace has not yet begun to vanish slowly, at least not in response to these laws. On the contrary, "three-strikes" laws uphold the proper purpose of the criminal justice system, which is to deter criminals from committing felonies and to reduce recidivism among the state's most prolific offenders.

Additionally, I would also like to define "three-strikes" laws because they tend to vary state-to-state. "Three-strikes laws" are state laws that require state courts to give a mandatory sentence to convicts who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense (felonies) in three or more separate incidents[2].

From what I can tell, my opponent has offered three worn out arguments against "three-strikes" laws: (1) the overflowing prisons criticism, (2) the Eighth Amendment criticism, and (3) the autonomy of judges criticism.

The overflowing prisons criticism is the thought that putting people in prison for extended incarcerations for minor crimes will lead to an unmanageably large prison population. There are three responses to this: First, contrary to this criticism, the prison populations of state prisons are actually dropping[3]. One of the largest drops in prison population was actually in California, whose state prisons lost a net 4,257 inmates. Second, the crime rate in California in particular has been falling since the early 1990s, coincidentally around the same time that their "three-strikes" laws were passed[4]. Third, and most intuitively, the costs of holding habitual criminals (the sort of criminals who are most likely to be sentenced according to three strikes) in prison are less than allowing these criminals to rob, vandalize, terrorize, and commit other kinds of violent acts.

The Eighth Amendment criticism is groundless. This criticism claims that sometimes, in the case where the third offense is a minor felony, an individual can be convicted of 25 years in prison for a minor offense. However, what exactly defines a minor offense is open to interpretation. Under the law, a felony is a felony, regardless of whether it is stealing or murder. Contrary to my opponent's claim that "taking someone else's pizza three times in a row" would lead to a "three-strikes" conviction is nonsense: stealing a pizza is not a felony. There is nothing inherently cruel or unusual about a "three-strikes" conviction. In 2003, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of these state laws in Ewing v. California and Lockyer v. Andrade. Thus, my opponent has no basis for claiming that "three-strikes" laws are Unconstitutional.

The autonomy of judges criticism claims that "three-strikes" laws undermine the autonomy of judges to use their law-given discretion to assign sentences to criminals based on all facts of the case. However, "three-strikes" laws are significant because they give a more objective, meaningful basis on which to assign punishments to criminals, rather than relying on the subjective value judgments on one person. Often, judges overlook the fact that habitual offenders are continually harmful to the public and assign sentences without concern about recidivism. Once again, the fundamental purpose of the criminal justice system is to deter crime from happening in the first place, and "three-strikes" laws establish legal clarity and accomplish this goal.

At this point, I would like to level a couple of criticisms of Pro's position: (1) the need to rethink rehabilitation, and (2) the need for consistency. First, the need to rethink rehabilitation is proposed by David Farabee in his book "Rethinking Rehabilitation: Why Can't We Reform Our Criminals?" His central claim is that rehabilitation does not work for most criminals, especially the repeat offenders that "three-strikes" laws target. Instead of focusing our efforts on rehabilitating people who continually commit felony-level crimes, supporters of "three-strikes" laws justifiably support a policy that the best way for society to deal with these individuals is to remove them. Secondly, as was mentioned before, "three-strikes" laws promote consistency and certainty in the criminal justice system. In most trials, it is always uncertain what a judge will decide, and often at least one side in the trial will be dissatisfied with the length and severity of the sentence handed down. With "three-strikes" laws, the criminal knows what will result before he commits the crime, and judges know what is legally mandated. This goes a long way in deterring crime from happening in the first place.

My opponent has asked me a question: "Why should people who perform violent crimes be tolerated three times?" My answer is that they should not be. After their third violent crime, they should be put into state prisons because they have demonstrated their inability to resist committing violent crimes as a matter of habit. Given how unlikely it is to reform recidivists' behavior through rehabilitation, the best course for society is to provide stricter punishments and laws.

That concludes Round 2.


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Debate Round No. 2


ethopia619 forfeited this round.


Brock_Meyer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


ethopia619 forfeited this round.


Brock_Meyer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


ethopia619 forfeited this round.


Brock_Meyer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by ApostateAbe 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: forfeit