‘3 Strikes Law’ is for habitual criminals

Hawai‘i’s new “Three Strikes Law” should ensure that habitual offenders will be spending a lot of time behind bars, local law enforcement officials said.

The law, signed on May 8 by Gov. Linda Lingle, establishes a mandatory sentence of 30 years to life for habitual violent felons who have been convicted of three separate crimes including murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery and home burglary.

“We feel the ‘Three Strikes Law’ that was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor will be a valuable tool to keep those who habitually commit violent offenses incarcerated for a significant period of time,” said County Prosecutor Craig De Costa.

He said the most significant impact of the law will be that those who would be inclined to commit more violent offenses will now be incarcerated and therefore unable to victimize any more of our citizens.

“This law should also be a deterrent for those who have already committed one or two violent felonies because the consequences for the third violent felony offense will cost them their freedom for most of the remainder of their lives,” De Costa said.

De Costa said the proposal was supported by the Law Enforcement Coalition which is made up of the leaders of all law enforcement agencies in Hawai‘i. The coalition includes the county prosecuting attorneys, the attorney general, all chiefs of police, the U.S. attorney general and others.

Kaua‘i County Police Chief K.C. Lum said he was happy Lingle signed off on the measure.

“The law will make the state of Hawai‘i safer from violent criminals,” Lum said.

Attorneys from the private sector also weighed in favor of the new law.

“This looks like a better law than what originally passed in California (in 1994),” said Daniel Hempey. “Yes, I think violent criminals should be locked up.”

Hempey said more prison space could open up for offenders who are convicted of violent crimes if jail time is reduced for other offenders.

“Perhaps an additional solution could be reducing jail sentences for nonviolent drug offenders to relieve prison overcrowding, leaving more space for violent criminals,” he said.

• Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.com.

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