California is set to add child sex trafficking to the state’s “three strikes” law, which lengthens prison sentences for those who were previously convicted of a different crime listed as a serious or violent felony. Criminal justice reform advocates worry about expanding the 30-year-old statute, saying it has not rreduced crime rates and disproportionately hurts communities of color, The Sacramento Bee reports. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law introduced by Republican Sen. Shannon Grove, in September. People already convicted of a listed crime could face double the prison time if they are later found guilty of child sex trafficking. People convicted of two previous strikable crimes could face 25 years to life in prison. Grove’s bill marks the first time the state has added a crime to the list of strikable offenses in more than 20 years.
“The real concern is whether or not new lawmakers who are looking to make a stand for themselves, to make a name for themselves are going to fall victim to this kind of approach that is great for sound bites, horrible for communities,” said Carmen-Nicole Cox of American Civil Liberties Union California Action. California leaders have spent over ten years overhauling harsh sentencing laws that led to the mass incarceration of Black and brown residents and created overcrowded prison conditions. Leaders began changing laws like three strikes after a panel of federal judges in 2009 ordered the state to reduce prison overcrowding, a decision the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in 2011. As of January 2022, more than 36 percent of those incarcerated in California were serving sentences lengthened by strike enhancements, found a California Policy Lab study.