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"Life is not a Baseball Game" -- The Fight Against Three Strikes

by alex dobuzinskis Sunday, Mar. 10, 2002 at 9:40 PM

More than 300 people attended a march in Westwood today to show their opposition to California's Three Strikes law. The march was led by the Aztec Dancers. It was organized by Families to Amend California's Three Strikes, which can be reached at (213) 746-4844.

errorSince California passed the three strikes law in 1994, more than 6,700 people have been incarcerated for 25 years to life, a disturbing number of them for offenses like being a lookout for a drug deal, drug possession or even stealing a slice of pizza.

That was the message Saturday at a march attended by about 300 people that wound through Westwood to get the word out about Californias terminally incarcerated.

Many of the marchers carried placards with pictures of family members who have been locked up under Three Strikes. Others carried a banner with pictures of incarcerated family members that nearly spanned the width of the street.

The crowd chanted: Life is not a baseball game, three strikes is a crying shame; Prisons for profit, you know weve got to stop it; and Educate, dont incarcerate.

The march started at the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard and headed towards UCLA, attracting several dazed bystanders from the nearby college.

Gov. Gray Davis was at the march carrying a canvas sack that he stuffed with campaign contributions from a California prison guard.

I pulled my head out of my ass for this parade, said the mock governor, adding that he would never miss a chance to grab some publicity.

Davis accepted $2.8 million in campaign contributions from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, according to march organizers Families to Amend Californias Three Strikes.

Real life politician Jackie Golberg (D-Los Angeles) was at the rally in front of the Federal Building after the 45-minute march.

It costs more to send someone to prison than to send them to Harvard. I think Harvard would do them more good, Goldberg told the crowd.

Golberg authored Assembly Bill 1790, which would limit the Three Strikes law to violent offenders.

The former Los Angeles City Councilwoman said she is also working on a ballot measure to be put to voters on the November 2004 ballot that would mandate that all strikes must be serious or violent strikes.

Why not put it on the ballot the way people wanted it in the first place? she said.

Sue Reams, who lives in Orange County and has a son in jail on a third strike for a petty crime, said she voted for the Three Strikes law.

I didnt know any better, Reams said.

Her son Shane, 33, has been in jail for six years, she said. His third strike was for being a lookout for a drug sale in 1996.

His first two strikes were residential burglary at my house and my neighbors, she said.

Reams said she was a tough-love parent and convinced her son to turn himself in to the police to get help for drugs.

Instead, he went to prison and he learned about drugs even more, she said.

Barbara Ellis, of San Bernardino, said her brother Reginald was sentenced to 25-years-to-life for constructive possession of a firearm.

Thats a crime that normally would have been one year, she said.

Ellis said her brother tried to commit suicide when he found out he was going to be sent back to prison, and she went with her mother to the hospital, where the two of them told him they would help him if he had resolve to live.

Reginald co-founded Inside FACTS and is working to change the law from behind bars, Ellis said.

California is one of 47 states to have disenfranchised prison inmates. Florida bans ex-felons from voting, a factor that many argue contributed to President Bushs 537-vote win.

Freddie Lawson, of Inglewood, said her son, Derek, got 25-years-to-life for entering an abandoned building.

Lawson said her son is a drug addict who never had any help for his illness.

Hes no gangbanger and never killed anybody, never hurt anybody, she said.

Rowland McFarland, 63, of West Covina, said his son got a 25-to-life sentence for having a gun in his car.

McFarland said he did not vote for the Three Strikes law.

I could see the ugliness of it, he said.

McFarland said his son, who is in his 40s, was convicted in 1979 for fighting with family members. A second conviction was handed out in the 1980s for possessing a gun while in prison, McFarland said.

McFarland said his sons second conviction was a fabrication that was overturned in court, but they never let him go back to court to be re-sentenced.

McFarland said Three Strikes should be for vicious crimes.

Were not saying everybody should be let out of prison, he said.

FACTS organized the march to coincide with the anniversary of the passage of Californias Three Strikes Law on March 7, 1994. This is the first time one of the organizations marches has taken over a street, an organizer said.

At least one FACTS member was a former inmate who made it out of jail following a Three Strikes conviction.

Pam Martinez of Los Angeles said she was convicted of robbery in 1977, pled to second degree robbery in 1987 and was convicted of petty theft in 1995. She made it out when she had a conviction overturned based on ineffective assistance of counsel.

Its a miracle, she said. Im in one-half-of-one percent of people who are successful on appeal.

I hope to represent all the people who cant be here themselves, she said.
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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 3 posted about this article.
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This is BS John Doe Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2002 at 12:23 PM
It is more than a crying shame Carole Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2002 at 8:15 AM
Life is not a baseball game Angie Friday, Mar. 15, 2002 at 8:22 AM
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