Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Habitual Felony Laws
Kenneth W. Mentor
Habitual felony laws—commonly known as “three-strikes” laws—have been enacted since 1994 by lawmakers at the federal and state levels. These laws require that judges sentence offenders with three convictions to long prison terms. Aimed at repeat offenders, three-strikes laws are based on the premise that a three-time offender has demonstrated an inability to conform to the laws of society and should be incarcerated for an extended period, perhaps for life. The logic behind three-strikes laws is simple. If the cost of a behavior greatly exceeds its benefits, the behavior is less likely to be chosen. If the behavior continues in spite of the cost, the cost must be increased. This view, which represents a simplified version of deterrence theory, typically does not examine the influence of social factors on behavior. Following the logic of this argument to the extreme, the imposition of the death penalty for jaywalking would result in ...