A Get-Tough Policy That Failed

Mandatory sentencing was once America's law-and-order panacea. Here's why it's not working

Remember little Polly Klaas? She was the 12-year-old Petaluma, Calif., girl whisked from a slumber party in 1993 and found murdered two months later. Her father Marc, horrified to learn that her killer was on parole and had attacked children in the past, called for laws making parole less common. He joined with others backing a "three strikes and you're out" law for California--no parole, ever, for those convicted of three felonies. Klaas went on TV, got in the papers, met the President--all within weeks after his daughter's body was found.

Then he began studying how the three-strikes law would actually...

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