“Three Strikes and You’re Out”

Christopher Hurtado —  March 18, 2010
“Three Strikes and You’re Out” | Christopher Hurtado
Some politicians support a recent proposal popularly known as “three strikes and you’re out.” In one form, anyone convicted of three felonies (or three violent felonies or three felonies of the same kind) would receive a sentence of life in prison without chance of parole. Would act utilitarians support this proposal? Would rule utilitarians? Would you? Why or why not?

Act and rule utilitarians alike would likely see the “three strikes and you’re out” proposal as increasing overall utility and therefore support it. Anyone convicted of three felonies is likely to commit more. Therefore, there would seem to be greater overall utility in sentencing him to life in prison without a chance of parole, thereby eliminating the threat to society that he poses. Furthermore, both act and rule utilitarians would agree that the threat of life imprisonment without the chance of parole serves as a deterrent to those who have already committed two felonies. Sentencing anyone convicted of three felonies to life in prison without the chance of parole sends a clear message to anyone who has already committed two felonies that he had better rehabilitate. Act and rule utilitarians alike would also agree that whether the result of this threat is the rehabilitation of the felon after two felonies or life imprisonment after three, overall utility would increase, as the threat to society the felon poses is eliminated either way. However, this general assessment of the act and rule utilitarian approach to dealing with punishment overlooks the possibility of rehabilitation.

I would not support the “three strikes and you’re out” proposal because I believe there is a   possibility of rehabilitation. I would agree with harsher penalties for repeat felons, but not to the extent that there is no possibility for parole. In fact, I believe there is a utilitarian case for not supporting the “three strikes and you’re out” proposal: If there is any possibility of rehabilitation, there is greater utility in paroling rehabilitated felons than in keeping them imprisoned since the cost of their life imprisonment without any possibility of parole decreases overall utility.

Christopher Hurtado

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Christopher Hurtado is President and CEO of Linguistic Solutions and Adjunct Instructor of Philosophy and Political Science at Utah Valley University. He holds a BA in Middle East Studies/Arabic and Philosophy and an MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies. He coauthored Vacation Spanish: A Survival Guide for Mexico, the Caribbean, Central & South America. He is married to children's book author and homeschool mom, Alysia Gonzalez. Together they have nine children. They are active in their church and in their community.

One response to “Three Strikes and You’re Out”

  1. States do not individually retaluge if felons can buy guns it is Federal Law that convicted felons cannot buy or posess any firearms. States can give back to a felon thier voting rights but not gun rights.There are allot of people in the United States that the US military has screened and not allowed into the military for mental illness. Unfortunatly there is no way for the US military to report this and as you may know, many of the high profile public shootings have been people with exactly this kind of background.You need to make the destinction between mental illness and mentally ill. In Alaska we have what’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short a conditon that causes depression from lack of sunlight. This is a mental illness that can be easily cured by having a person work under full spectrum lights, or, use a light box (happy box) they stick their face into for 20 minutes a day. This is an illness with an easy cure.Mentally ill would be a person who had to be admitted to a hospital ward. The kind of place where the doors are locked and you are not free to leave. Anyone who has been kept in such a place for more than 48hrs is not allowed to buy a firearm however there is no way to capture the names of such people and have them be found during a background check. It’s not until the commit a crime that the mental illness is spotted and the person is now in the system’.The problem boils down to a question of responsibility’. If Jane Doe has SAD and does her treatments in the winter months at home nobody would know she suffered from SAD. What if she stops using her light box, buys a gun, and hurts someone? For the last 2,000 years people would have held her responsible today everybody has an excuse to not make Jane Doe responsbile. The family of the deceased will sue the doctor even though other laws prevent him from disclosing his patients medical history. They sue the gun dealer even though she filled out the form correctly and passes the NICS background check. What if Jane answered a for sale ad in the paper? This has no paperwork or NICS background check. Deciding who can, and cannot have a gun is a slippery slope.