Panel calls foul on
‘three-strikes law’

A citizens panel says the state should not adopt a law similar to California's controversial "three-strikes law" that calls for felons convicted of three crimes to be jailed for life.

In the report, requested by the state Senate last year, Aviam Soifer, dean of the University of Hawaii law school, said the committee's conclusion was to not enact a law modeled after the California law.

"Our analysis suggests that California's law sweeps too broadly and has not been proven to be effective," Soifer said.

Also, Soifer added, others on the committee worried about "the projected cost and burden on the prison system if Hawaii's were to follow California's model too closely."

Instead of the California three-strikes proposal, the report suggests a new law with increased extended sentencing for repeat violators similar to a proposal offered by the Lingle administration.

The three-strikes proposal gained support last year after Ed Kubo, U.S. attorney in Hawaii, said changes in sentencing laws were needed. Kubo made his comments in reaction to the killing of police officer Glen Gaspar, who was murdered last year by Shane Mark.

Mark had already been convicted of four felonies.

Mark was convicted last month of second-degree murder in the Gaspar case.

Last year, Kubo noted that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the California law, adding that "the recidivism rate of parolees returned to prison for the commission of a new crime dropped by nearly 25 percent."

"The Supreme Court recognized that society has the right to make a deliberate policy choice that individuals who have repeatedly engaged in serious or violent criminal behavior, and whose conduct has not been deterred by more conventional approaches to punishment, must be isolated from our citizens in order to protect the public safety," Kubo had said.

After serving on the task force, Kubo said yesterday he agreed with the new recommendations that would allow for special sentencing for violent or dangerous repeat offenders.

"I am opposed to the sentencing law in California where any felony would do. It should be the harshest sentence for the harshest criminals.

"I fully support this measure," Kubo said.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa, who had asked for the study, said she thought the report was a "reasoned approach."

The issue, however, will likely continue to generate controversy. Rep. Bud Stonebraker (R, Kalama Valley-Hawaii Kai) promised to continue to push for a three-strikes law, saying that in California the law has helped lower rates of violent crime.

Republican leader Rep. Galen Fox, however, said that while it was likely that the GOP would support three-strikes proposals, the plan offered by the Lingle administration to increase penalties for violent repeat offenders would also get support.


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