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Law & Justice

Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Michael Romano, Stanford Three Strikes Project

Michael Romano and David Onek

In Episode #21, Co-Founder of the Stanford Three Strikes Project Michael Romano discusses how the California Three Strikes law can lead to life sentences for people with minor offenses, how students in his project have helped a dozen such clients get released from prison after having their sentences reduced, and the need to reform Three Strikes so that it focuses on serious and violent offenders.

Michael Romano Interview Highlights

Romano on the Types of Crimes His Project’s Clients Have Committed:
“We represent folks who have been sentenced under the Three Strikes law for extraordinarily minor crimes. We represent people who have simple possession of less than a gram of methamphetamine or heroin, or petty theft of a pair of socks, or stealing a dollar in change from a parked car – those are all real cases that we are currently working on. All those people are serving life sentences for those crimes.”

Romano on the Impact of Three Strikes:  
“I don’t have any opposition to someone who has three rape convictions or three murder convictions to be sentenced to life. And that’s frankly the way the Three Strikes law was passed in 1994. I think the voters believed that they were putting dangerous murderers and child molesters in jail forever. In fact, the majority of people who have been sentenced under the Three Strikes law have committed a minor, non-violent crime.”

Romano on the Need to Reform Three Strikes:
“We need to try to reform the law to bring some sense and rationality back to the law. Keep Three Strikes for violent crimes, but scale back the recidivist sentencing for non-violent crimes… Three Strikes reform is necessary to solve our prison overcrowding problem, our state budget problem, and I think bring more justice to our system here.”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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