MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif.- With only five days until the election, we're focusing in on some of the most dangerous criminals locked away in prison and a ballot measure to change the three strikes law that could set them free. Central Coast News went in-depth to find out how the law works and how it could change if passed on November 6th.
It's designed to keep the worst of the worst off our streets. Two decades ago, Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said the vast majority of California stood behind three strikes.
"When Polly Klass was kidnapped out of her home by a parolee, sexually assaulted and murdered, it just galvanized all of California," said district attorney Dean Flippo.
Several attempts have been made to change the law, including Proposition 36 on the ballot this November-to put a felon away for 25 to life-for only a serious or violent crime and nothing less.
"Our view is, you don't throw it out. What you do, is you continue to insert safe guards," Flippo said.
There are safeguards in place. For example, take someone who has already been to prison for two serious or violent crimes. Then they're caught stealing something like a bike. The judge can decide to mask one or both of the convictions, and come to an appropriate course of action. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen is one of only a few DA's in the state that think the law is flawed.
"Over the years there've been too many stories about someone getting a 25 year to life sentence for stealing a pizza, stealing a bike or writing a bad check," said district attorney Jeff Rosen.
"I think it's fair to say that there were probably some poor judgmental decisions made early on in three strikes," Flippo said.
Flippo said he doesn't support Prop 36 because it would take away some of his discretion when it comes to non-violent crimes that are still serious.
"Auto thefts, commercial burglaries, embezzlements, all of those kinds of things that impact the quality of life, and leave victims in its wake," Flippo said.
One important point, if Prop 36 passes, current inmates could have their case re-opened.
"There's certainly a cost of having somebody transported back to the county and having a sentencing hearing. But I would rather have that than have anyone automatically released," Rosen said.
The California Bureau of State Audits found in 2009, striker inmates serve about 9 years longer than the average inmate, costing over $19 billion dollars.