Source: (1997) Criminal Law Forum. 8(3):369-385.
The “three strikes” legislation increased penalties for home burglary and created a mandatory sentence for repeat offenders; a repeat offender is one who on two previous occasions has been convicted of home burglary; the third conviction results in a mandatory sentence of 12 months imprisonment or detention. The law applies to juveniles, and criminal responsibility begins at age 10 for children in Western Australia, provided that, in the case of a child under the age of 14 years, it is proved that the child had the capacity to know that she/he ought not to do the offense. On two occasions, however, juvenile judges gave very young habitual juvenile burglars who qualified for the “three strikes” law intensive supervision, with the condition that any violation of supervision conditions would result in 12 months detention. The judges received criticism for these decisions in the media. Still, 58 young offenders have now been sentenced under the law. the Children’s Court is dealing with approximately seven or eight repeat home burglary offenders each month. Criticisms of “three strikes” laws fall into a number of categories: longer sentences have not been effective in reducing crime and recidivism; mandatory minimum penalties have considerable potential for injustice; court caseloads will be impacted by the increased demand for jury trials; and resources will be diverted from social and prevention programs to fund larger prison populations. During the same period when “three strikes” laws gained popular support in the United Kingdom, United States, and Western Australia, a much different process, reconciliation, was being tried both internationally and nationally in various parts of the world. Restorative justice gives the community the opportunity to become directly involved with crime and with young offenders. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service, www.ncjrs.org.
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