“William Stonebraker Image”

Tough on crime measures, such as my call for a “Three Strikes” law, have met resistance in the Legislature, and yet the proposal I offered in an amendment on Friday, March 21, 2003, is constitutional, discretionary and effective.

California’s “Three Strikes” law maintains a three-time felon with a violent history can be sentenced to 25 years or life in prison.

While the law’s constitutionality was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, 25 other states with similar laws and career criminals awaited the outcome.

Finally, on March 5, 2003, just one day after the fatal shooting of Officer Glen Gaspar by convicted felon Shane Mark, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s “Three Strikes” law was constitutional. This green light from the country’s high court marked the Legislature’s opportunity to take action against crime in Hawaii.

“Three Strikes” laws are used at the prosecutor’s discretion to protect people from repeat offenders.

Democrat leader Scott Saiki opposes “Three Strikes” because California’s career criminal Gary Ewing was sentenced to 25 years for stealing golf clubs.

What Mr. Saiki fails to tell us is that Ewing had already been in jail nine times for crimes like robbery, burglary with a deadly weapon, assault, and other violent felonies (Ewing vs. California, 01-6978).

Now, because of “Three Strikes” he is no longer a threat. Remember, notorious underworld figure Al Capone was put in jail for mail fraud. He was a known murderer and menace to society, but prosecutors got him on what they could to keep him from killing again. In the same way, “Three Strikes” exists as the instrument to remove irreparable lawbreakers, like Shane Mark (66 arrests and 14 convictions), from the street.

The majority of states have a “Three Strikes” law because they are effective.

California Secretary of State Bill Jones noted that 60 percent of crimes in California were committed by 6 percent of the perpetrators. By accurately targeting these repeat offenders, crime can be drastically reduced.

For instance, after California passed a “Three Strikes” law in 1994, crime rates dropped by 41 percent and recidivism fell 25 percent.

The California Attorney General was pleased to report the following, “An unintended but positive consequence of ‘Three Strikes’ has been the impact on parolees leaving the state. It was the first time more parolees left the state than entered since 1976. This trend has continued — more than 1,000 net parolees left California.”

In other words, the mass exodus of felons from California is because the state has a “Three Strikes” law. We only hope they are not coming here.

With 80 to 90 percent of Hawaii residents supporting a “Three Strikes” law, it is puzzling my amendment was shot down. The amendment was the only venue to open the discussion on the issue and allow for public input, but it was crushed by the Democrats who all voted against it.

Their response was an inadequate one to an extremely serious problem. A sad response indeed, and indicative of much needed change in the Legislature.

While Republicans are calling for the action necessary to protect our communities, Democrats are taking the side of career criminals. The people of Hawaii wonder why Democrats would vote “No” on “Three Strikes.”

We would all like to know.

”’William “Bud” Stonebraker is a Republican state Representative for Hawaii Kai in the Hawaii State Legislature.”’

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Hawaii Reporter is an award-winning, independent Hawaii-based news and opinion journal founded in 2001 and launched in February 2002. The journal's staff have won a number of top awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including the top investigative news reporting awards, business reporting awards, government reporting awards, and online news reporting awards.