Three Strikes Unfair

Make the punishment fit the crime

By M. Castaneda
Published on LatinoLA: June 20, 2004

Three Strikes Unfair

This November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote to amend the "Three Strike Law" in California, as with everything else, it has is supporters and opponents.

I would just like to add my personal story to this law and the affect it has had on my family:

In December of 2003, my husband was sentenced under this law. He was sentenced under a second felony offense. His crime was that he was trying to get away from someone who he had a minor fender bender with.

There was very a small scratch to the bumper, no more than $200 in damages. He tried talking to this person but the guy and his passenger became combative and as my husband tried to reason with them and started to get back in his car, one came around the passenger side and the driver came and tried to pull him out the car window. He got away and made his way to the closest freeway entrance, they pursued him and as he entered the freeeway with the other car close by, he was involved in a five-car accident.

My husband suffered several injuries to his knees and face. He does not remember what occurred after the impact. The next thing he remebered was waking up in the emergency room. Apparently, since he still fearing for his safety, he left the scene of the accident and from the police report that I have received, the two guys that chased him into the freeway continued to follow him. They flagged down a patrol car and he was arrested.

His first felony was just short of his 18th birthday for a fight with his brother's neighbor over a dispute over something minor, but he was charge with assault because he picked up a bat. The injuries were minor, but the result was a felony for him.

My husband is now 42 years old, we have raised a family, own our own home and he has maintained a clear record all these years. However, because of the "Three Strikes Law", he was sentenced for a second strike. He is not eligible to serve only 50% of his sentence or considered for a reduced sentence due to good behavior, he must serve 85% of his sentence, which means he is not due to return home to his family until February of 2007.

The impact this had had on my kids and me is unbearable. My son is 18, and two weeks after my husband was sentenced he was returning from work. He had tears in his eyes as he thought about the impact on our family when he was suddenly cut off by a woman that at the last minute decided to turn into a gas station. Thankfully, the accident was minor but my son was badly shaken. He did not want to drive for almost two months after that. He also now has to work full time to help me out with the mortgage and household expenses. He has given up his schooling, but one day, God willing, he will return.

My daughter is 15. She has had to leave school and has enrolled in Independent Study. One day in late February, I received a call from her math teacher. He said he didn't know what the situation at home was, but that my daughter was very close to failing his class and that he was very concerned about her state of mind. He said that he had observed her sitting in class with a blank and faraway look in her eyes and had noticed tears in her eyes several time. He asked her to stay one day after school to pick up make up work when he noticed that she had several cuts on her wrists.

My baby girl had been suffering in silence and hurting herself. This was very devasting for me. However, I owe that teacher so much. As for myself, I survive everyday, knowing that my husband is not a criminal, he did not kill anyone, he did not rape or assault anyone, or hurt anyone with malice, He himself was a victim, a victim, of someone who was drinking and became violent and combative.

We are slowly, returning to a little of our old lives, but it will never be the same again unitl my husband returns home to us. My baby girl will not have her sweet sixteen celebration that we had started to plan, and she cries everyday for her "Daddy". She misses their daily chats, and mostly his cooking. She is adjusting, and hopes to get a job as soon as she turns 16 in order to help out financially.

I know that people have to pay for their crimes, and belive me my husband has paid. We
have paid. But a law such as the "Three Strikes Law" should fit the crime: if the crime is premediated, if it is violent (the use of a handgun), rape, or murder. Of course, the law should apply.

But when you have lived your life crime free, raised a family and taught your children to accept and respect others and something like this happens, the life you have led should speak for itself, it should be taken into consideration. None of that was considered in the sentencing of my husband. The only thing that was considered was that he had committed a second strike, and should pay the price.

So please, consider all the facts when considering your vote. There are many families, such as ours that are suffering the injustice of this law as it reads today. Help us bring our husbands, brothers and mothers home to their children.

God Bless.

About M. Castaneda:
I can be contacted at

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