County Approves $4 Million to House Released, Non-Violent ‘Three Strikes’ Offenders

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved $4 million in housing for non-violent convicts released under the state’s “Three Strikes” reform.

Some of the money will pay for rental subsidies, case management for those living on the streets and shelter for their children. Cash comes from a one-time reserve funded in part by the state sales tax and car licensing fee set aside for housing released convicts after the state passed AB 109, a law that allowed those locked up on a third-strike offense to appeal their case as long as the third strike wasn’t a violent crime.

AB 109, an effort to reign in prison overcrowding, pushed responsibility for low-level offenders from state prisons to county governments.

“By helping former inmates sentenced under California’s ‘Three Strikes Law’ to secure stable housing, we are increasing their chances of successfully reintegrating back into the community,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a statement.

California voters approved Prop. 36 last fall to restore the original intent of the “Three Strikes” law by requiring life sentences only be handed down for violent crimes. Repeat offenders serving life sentences for non-serious crimes have been applying for new sentences under the reform, which allows judges to grant release if they deem the offender fit to re-enter the community.

A judge on Monday held a hearing to release the county’s only female third striker, Lisa Carter, who’s served nearly two decades of a 25-year-to-life sentence for stealing cash and some merchandise from JC Penney. She’s now 55.

Under the re-entry housing program, up to 15 offenders like Carter could receive monthly rental subsidies and case management from the county for up to a year.

“When voters approved Proposition 36, changing the Three Strikes Law, no funding was included for its implementation,” County Executive Jeff Smith said in a statement. “We are putting AB 109 funds to good use, because data shows that housing is a decisive factor related to an individual’s successful reintegration to society.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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