Under California's current Three Strikes law, you can get life in prison for stealing a pair of socks if you're a repeat offender.
Three strikes and you're out.
But as of now, it looks like a dedicated group of Stanford law professors are trying to change the law – often viewed as draconian – one signature at a time.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the Stanford professors have drafted a ballot initiative that would slightly soften the often harsh realities of sentence lengths for third strikers.
Under the current law, even the smallest crime can count as someone's third strike, effectively sending him to jail for 25 years to life for nothing more than a small-time theft.
Under the proposed law, murderers, child molesters and rapists could still get the same tough sentence for say, shoplifting. However, a third strike would only be given to everyone else if the qualifying crime were a serious or violent felony.
The Three Strikes law came to be in 1994.
According to the San Jose Mercury News:
Since then, the courts have sent more than 80,000 “second-strikers” and 7,500 “third-strikers” to state prison, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office. Though third-strikers make up just 6 percent of the prison population, they are responsible for a disproportionate share of the state's spiraling prison health care costs – at least $100 million annually – as they age and need more medical attention, according to the California auditor.
The proposed initiative is under legal review and its authors hope to start collecting signatures in December. They need 504,760 to get aboard the November 2012 ballot.