Talking Back

The following timeline highlights some key events related to the evolution of the "three-strikes and you're out" legislation as featured in The Legacy: Murder & Media, Politics & Prisons, a film by Michael J. Moore.

Washington State
First national "Three Strikes and You're Out" initiative proposed, mandating minimum sentences for repeat felons. Initiative fails to gain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. (1)

July 1992: Mike Reynolds, whose daughter was shot to death by a convicted felon three weeks earlier, convenes informal group of judges, attorneys and law enforcement reps to discuss sentencing practices. The California "Three Strikes" movement begins to evolve from here. (2)

Washington State
Washington state "Three Strikes" bill fails in the legislature, but voters in November pass a ballot initiative with 76% approval. The law takes effect on December 2, 1993. (3)

April 20: Mike Reynolds testifies before the legislature in support of Three Strikes bill. There is little support for the bill and his testimony is overshadowed by ATF invasion in Waco, TX. (2)

November 30: Convicted felon Richard Allen Davis is arrested and subsequently charged with the kidnapping and murder of 12-year old Polly Klaas. (12)

December: Klaas family learns of the "Three Strikes" initiative. (5)

December: KGO radio in San Francisco launches signature drive in support of "Three Strikes" initiative. People line up for 3 blocks seeking petitions. (4)

December: Marc Klaas joins Mike Reynolds in support of "Three Strikes" initiative. (5)

January 11, 1994: Republican Assemblyman Bill Jones announces his candidacy for the Secretary of State in California and his support of the "Three Strikes" initiative. (7)

February 17: Marc Klaas ends his support of the "Three Strikes" bill in favor of the Rainey bill, legislation that specifically deals with violent offenders. (6)

March 7: In a televised ceremony, Governor Pete Wilson signs into law bill AB971, the legislative version of "Three Strikes" that was reintroduced by Bill Jones. (10)

March 7: Mike Reynolds officially submits petitions for "Three Strikes" initiative for the November ballot. Reynolds submits over 800,000 signatures, more than twice the necessary amount. (2)

September 1994: Omnibus Crime Bill signed into law; this is a federal version of "Three Strikes". (11)

November 8, 1994: Proposition 184--"Three Strikes and You're Out"--is ratified by overwhelming voter support and goes into effect November 9, 1994.(13) The initiative requires a 2/3 vote by both houses to amend or repeal.

Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin implement "Three Strikes" legislation. (14)

Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont implement "Three Strikes" legislation. (14)

The state supreme court in People vs. Romero permits a trial court to strike a defendant's prior convictions. (15)

January 1998: The state supreme court narrows the decision in People vs. Romero and limits judge's power to disregard prior convictions. (16)

November 1998: By this date, one in four California inmates were sentenced under "Three Strikes". (15) (9) Senator Tom Hayden introduces SB79, an amendment that would limit third strike sentencing to violent and serious offenses.

As of 1999, 24 states and the Federal Government have some form of "Three Strikes" legislation on the books. (14


1. The Legacy: Murder & Media, Politics & Prison,a film by Michael J. Moore, 1999.
2. Mike Reynolds interview, The Legacy: Murder & Media, Politics & Prison, 1999.
3. Lubman, Sarah, Anticrime measures, term limits pass in referendums; school vouchers lose, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 4, 1993, p. A16.
4. Ron Owens (KGO Radio) interview, The Legacy: Murder & Media, Politics & Prison, 1999.
5. Marc Klaas interview, The Legacy: Murder & Media, Politics & Prison, 1999.
6. Marc Klaas prefers Rainey Bill to 'three strikes' initiative, San Francisco Chronicle, February 18, 1994, p. D3.
7. Jones seeks GOP nomination for secretary of state, The Los Angeles Times, January 12, 1994, p. A16.
8. California Dept. of Corrections, 1998.
9. Justice Policy Institute.
10. Vlae, Kershner, et al, 'Three strikes' signed into California law,' San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 1994, p. A1.
11. Anderson, Theresa, Legislative Wrap-up, Security Management, December 1994, page 70.
12. Sonenshine, Ron, 'Convicted kidnapper held in Polly case,' San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 1993, p. A1.
13. Morain, Dan, et al., 'Voters approve 'three strikes' law, reject smoking measure,' The Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1994, p. A3.
14. Clark, John, et al., 'Three Strikes and You're Out': A Review of State Legislation', National Institute of Justice Research in Brief, September 1997.
15. Henry J. Reske, 'Three Strikes, You Might Be Out,' American Bar Association Journal, September 1996.
16. Decision in People v. Benson, California Court of Appeals, 1998.