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"Worse Policy After Bad: Why and How Three Strikes is a Complete Failure as Crime Policy"

Robert Nash Parker
May 26, 2011 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-700)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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Although political leaders and the public believe that California’s tough on crime policies, most notably its “Three Strikes” sentencing framework, put into effect in 1994, is responsible for a 100% crime drop in California since 1992, the evidence  from research and a logical examination of data on violent crime state by state over the past 50 years conclusively shows that this is not the case.  A multivariate Vector time series model for California over the last 5 decades shows that the imposition of Three Strikes in 1994 has had no impact on the violent crime rate in the state, but that alcohol consumption and unemployment have important impacts on the rate of violent crime.  If these results are correct, the budget of California has suffered from a tremendous burden caused by the excess imprisonment of many nonviolent offenders under the Three Strikes policy. The time has come to take action to wean the state of California from its obsession with punishment, and to help relieve the budget crises on a permanent basis by revising California Prison Policy.


Robert Nash Parker is Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Presley Center for Crime and Justice Studies, University of California, Riverside;  previously he held professorial appointments at The University of Akron, Rutgers University, and the University of Iowa. Between 1991 and 1996, Parker was a Senior Research Scientist at the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, CA.  His main research interests include alcohol and violence, youth violence and gangs, Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Modeling, and the study of the causes of homicide.  He recently co-edited special issues of New Directions in Evaluation (vol. 110) on failed evaluations, and Contemporary Drug Problems on alcohol policy and harm reduction (2007). Parker is also the author of Alcohol and Homicide: A Deadly Combination of Two American Traditions (SUNY Press, 1995) and GIS and Spatial Modeling for the Social Sciences (Routledge, 2008). His newest book is called Alcohol and Violence: The Nature of the Relationship and the Promise of Prevention and will be published in 2012.

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