The Three Strikes Law Misses the Mark
San Francisco Bay View, Joe Klaas, May 22, 2002 

In 1994, my granddaughter, Polly Klaas, was snatched from her bedroom and murdered by a man who should have been behind bars. In response, our family and Californians rose up and passed the Three-Strikes Law - a deceptive law we were led to believe was designed to remove only violent predators like her murderer, Richard Allen Davis, from our streets. 

Today I am writing to let you know the rest of the story. Shortly after the disappearance of my granddaughter, every agency of the government, an overwhelming number of private organizations, and individuals joined in the massive worldwide search for Polly. The only government official who turned us down was then Gov. Pete Wilson, who did not respond to our request to have the California State Guard join the search. 

Meanwhile, Mike Reynolds was working to get his version of The Three-Strikes Law on the books. Initial reaction in the legislature to his proposal was that it went way too far and was unworkable. That changed overnight when tragedy struck our family. Suddenly everyone wanted Three-Strikes, and we did too. 

Shortly thereafter, Gov. Wilson came to Polly’s internationally televised memorial service in Petaluma and used the opportunity to inaugurate the Three-Strikes Campaign and kick off his own campaign for reelection. 

Some time after, I got the chance to sit down and read the Three-Strikes Law. The most striking things were the clauses referring to serious crime and any felony for the second and third offenses. After further investigation of the meaning of those clauses, I discovered that this Three-Strikes Law as written would be applied to nonviolent petty crimes. In response, my family withdrew our support. 

Concerned and wanting to correct our grievous mistake, my son, Polly’s father Marc, went to talk to Gov. Wilson. His response to my son was, “Marc, you just don’t know how the victims feel.” 

Working with several legislators, we drafted a reasonable alternative that targeted violent crime. There were promises made to me that this bill would replace the Three-Strikes Law then under consideration. I was betrayed. The day the measure was supposed to go to the floor, bill sponsor Sen. Rainey pulled his support and spoke against his own bill. 

Since then, I have worked and prayed that this wrong can be corrected. Today I am urging you to join me by giving your support to Citizens Against Violent Crime. 

In 1999, I joined Citizens Against Violent Crime, and we wrote a proposal to refocus the Three-Strikes law so it more strongly targets violent crime, and replaces costly, unjust life sentences for nonviolent petty offenses with normal, less costly, more just sentences. 

Currently, we are doing everything possible to see that the people are given the opportunity to correct this horrendous injustice. Our goal is to place an initiative on the November 2002 ballot.

This law as it is written has added to the grief that Polly’s death has caused. My family now regrets that the law passed in her name casts too wide a net, fails to target the hard core offenders it set out to reach, and has diverted critical funds from crime prevention and education to horrendous punishment for minor offenses. 

Locking up nonviolent offenders does not equal being tough on crime. The money and resources being spent on this does not justify the huge fiscal cost and societal impact. How many more prisons must we build before our society wakes up? 

My family and I understand more than most why we need strict laws that prevent monsters like Richard Allen Davis from hurting our kids, but we owe it to ourselves to be smart about law enforcement. We must learn and accept the truth about the Three-Strikes Law and work to rectify this wrong. 

Only a short time remains before all signatures must be turned in. To sign the “Three Strikes Act of 2002,” contact the volunteer petition coordinator in your area: in San Francisco, Susan King, (415) 701-7090,; in Oakland and the East Bay, Audie Bock, (510) 655-6520,; in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties, E.D. Isaacs, (707) 545-8003. For more information and to make a much-needed financial contribution, contact Citizens Against Violent Crime, 12922 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, CA 92840, (714) 780-8901. For the full text of the initiative and the latest news, visit

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