Friday, April 6, 2012

Austin Police Department Officer Killed In The Line Of Duty

It is with a very heavy heart that I report that 41 year old Austin Police Department's Senior Officer Jaime Padron was shot and killed in the line of duty this morning. APD's Chief Art Acevedo reports that the gunman has been booked into The Travis County Jail on Capital Murder charges. Officer Padron leaves behind two children.
Investigators say APD Senior Officer Jaime Padron responded to a call of an intoxicated person at a Walmart store. A fight began and the man pulled out a semi-automatic gun. He shot and killed Padron.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Psychodynamic Interpretation Of The Movie "The Prince Of Tides" written by Beth Bramble 11/1998

The movie "The Prince of Tides" represents the struggle of a family that endeavors to endure their Southern heritage in an attempt to maintain family, cultural and societal values.  The plot deals with the motivations and development of interpersonal relationships among the central characters.  This article will examine one of the principal characters in the movie, also known as the Prince of Tides, in relationship to a psychodynamic approach, or more specifically, Objects-Relations/Self-psychology Theory.  An examination of the structured aspects of Tom and the enduring and distinctive patterns of relationships that characterize his family will be analyzed.  Tom's relationship with his sister's therapist, his journey towards integration and the discovery of his true self will be discussed.

Discussion of the Theories

Self-psychology and object relations theory is grounded upon the idea that all people exist in relationship.  Internalization of these early relationships occurs as the individual matures psychologically.  If the parent's are empathically accommodating to the child, they will understand and respond appropriately to an infant's egotistic, idealizing, and mirroring needs (Kohut 1971 cited in Hamilton 1996).

Successful fulfillment of self-object functions culminates in the child's development of a sense of internal cohesiveness and their interpersonal environment.  Kohut (1971, cited in Hamilton 1996) called this process "transmuting internalization."  According to Hamilton (1996), adults continue to require sustaining self-objects throughout their lives.  Psychopathology emerges when empathic failures disrupt this process of self-cohesiveness.

Donald Winnicott, theorized that "a good enough mother" was necessary for every child to mature.  He postulated the notion of a "holding environment" which provides an optimal amount of constancy and consolation for the infant whom is totally dependent on their mother.  Winnicott (1965, cited in Turner 1996) defined "holding" as a protective condition that constructs a facilitative milieu, which the reliant infant needs.  According to his construct, the "true self' is the innate potential that creates the essence of the child.  Its continuing development and establishment are facilitated by a good-enough mother who provides a sound environment and consequential responsiveness to the infant's sensorimotor and postural self (Turner, 1996).  In contrast to the "true self', the concept of a "false self' asserts the deficiency of a true self, and can occur if the mother is unable to care for "the id self' within the infant and imposes herself and her own needs on the child (Turner, 1996).

According to Freedman, cited in Edward and Sanville (1996), the formation of the mind is best understood when seen as a consequence of a complicated process of internalization evolved from ongoing interactional patterns.  The emphasis in object relations theory is on how internal object representations are constructed and how they interact within the psyche, thereby forming the self out of this exchange.  (Mitchell 1988, cited by Freedman in Edward and Sanvill, 1996).  Object relationists (see Kernberg 1976 and Mitchell 1983) explore primary forms of internalization, referred to as introjection (the taking in of parts or fragments) and projection (the placing onto objects parts of the self or fragments of an emerging self).  Internal experiences are integrated and established over time in relationship to affect-producing components generating memories of good or bad images of objects, thus facilitating criterion for further modes of attachment.

Developmental markers, which integrate the essence of the self in relationships, include the ability to form appropriate boundaries of self and other, and the integration of good and bad objects with the desire to regain the lost parts of the self (Ogden 1986, Seigel 1992, Steiner 1993 cited by Freedman in Edward and Sanville 1996).  Klein, cited in Turner (1996) described this phenomenon in her work which she called "splitting" or the tendency of the infantile mind to separate impulses into good, bad, damaged and undamaged. She contends that this process continues throughout life (Strean 1996, Turner, 1996).

A concept that is related to Klein's splitting is projective identification.  This entails seperating qualities of the mind that are viewed as dangerous, projecting them onto some other person, and then identifying with that individual (Segal cited by Strean in Turner, 1996).   Klein's studies of the superego uncovered the critical role reparation plays in a person’s psychic existence.  She theorized that reparation involves a variety of processes by which the ego undoes harm in fantasy and restores, preserves and revives objects (Turner, 1996).  This concept has obvious clinical implications which shall be further explored in the analysis.

Description of the Characters

Tom is one of three siblings in his family who are bonded through adversity: his older brother Luke, who serves as the family protector, his twin sister, Savannah, who serves as Tom's expressions of feelings and Tom, who serves as his sister's memory.  Initially, they create parts of a whole, but Tom and Savannah eventually break free, integrate and find their own true selves.

Tom spent his childhood years living on a Carolina Sea Island in a small, white house won by his great uncle, Winston Chadrick, in a horseshoe game.  He describes himself as the child of a beautiful woman.  His father, Henry Winger, was a shrimper.  Tom was proud of his father's occupation and consequently "fell in love with the shape of a boat as a young child."

He described his mother, Lila, as "a perfect woman who had a love of language and an appreciation of nature."  Tom's disappointing discovery of his mother's human condition becomes apparent when he declares "he wasn't the first child to be wrong about his mother."  Tom describes the relationship between his parents as a "war" in which the only prisoners they took were their children.  Interestingly enough he remarks that he can't recall when the war started.  What he does remember, and with vivid detail, is that when his parents were fighting, the children would engage in a ritual.  They would run outside, hold hands and jump off of the pier into the salt water where they would form a "circle bound by flesh and blood and water and when our lungs betrayed us we would rise towards the light."  Tom states that that was a long time ago, before he chose not to have a memory.

Tom is married and has three children, all of them girls. They are about 6, 12 and 15.  His wife, Sally, is a medical doctor.  They live in a fairly large house on the beach in one of the Carolina's.  Humor and witty remarks characterize his relationship with his children.  His relationship with Sally is remarkably strained at the start of the film.  The couple is divided and struggling with issues of intimacy within the marriage.  According to Bader and Pearson (1988) cited in Miehls (1997), individuals with a history of trauma may unconsciously couple with others whom they hope will provide a corrective experience for them.  It is interesting to note that Tom chose to marry a doctor.

Tom's defense mechanisms are evident throughout the movie.  The most conspicuous is however, his use of the "southern tradition" (in Tom's words), which translates into denial, repression and the use of humor in order to avoid the experience of feelings.  He uses reaction formation, projection, splitting, sublimation and suppression in an attempt to cope and keep himself safe from danger.  Tom's ego functions (and dysfunctions) are motivated out of his fear of intimacy, feelings of shame and a damaged  identity.  These  conflicts were born out of his childhood history of sexual, physical and verbal abuse.  He is quite ambivalent regarding issues of trust, which started as a result of his mother's narcissistic style of parenting and his father's blatant abuse. As a result of his childhood experiences, Tom developed a theoretical construct that equated love with danger and intimacy with death.

A very significant incident was the traumatic home invasion by three escaped prisoners who subsequently raped Lila, Savannah and Tom. The whole nightmare ended when Luke came in with a rifle and shot two of the men. Lila stabbed the third. This is an interesting use of metaphor, as Lila's character can clearly be seen as "back stabbing" throughout the movie.

All three of the men were dead and Lila ordered the boys to bury the bodies as well as the memory. Lila cleaned the bloodstains off of the walls while repeating the words, "this never happened, this never happened" over and over as if to drive the experience deeper and deeper into her psyche.  The children were sworn to secrecy.  No mention was ever made to Henry (father), to the police or to each other.  The struggle for this family was then the deafening silence of a most horrible secret which was necessary in order to maintain loyalty to the organizational structure, to their family and to the southern tradition.  Tom's most prominent super ego mandate and thus his psychic struggle becomes his loyalty to the secret and to his mother's concept of "the southern tradition. "

The start of the movie sets the stage by informing us that Tom's brother Luke died two
years prior and his sister Savannah had recently made "another" serious attempt to commit suicide. Tom and Lila have a very passionate argument when Lila tells Tom he must go to New York City to be with Savannah.  Lila can't go because her (new) husband's birthday is in several days.

Character Analysis

Tom arrived in New York City, and as he stepped out of his cab into the confusion, he remembered that he and Luke hated New York City because it had nothing to do with their childhood.  He recalled that Savannah loved it for just that reason.  In spite of the pain associated with Tom's childhood, he continues to hold fast to the southern tradition, as if it were the very environment which represented his "self'.  Indeed, the Carolina sea island can be seen as Tom's "construct" or "holding environment" within which he is safe to experience the reparation of his childhood in his adult life.

One of the best examples of this is his relationship with his wife, which is marked with conflicts related to issues of trust and intimacy.  There are two interpretations of the conflict.  The first includes Tom's childhood memories of a narcissistic mother who's self-centeredness, and self-importance taught him that love was convoluted and not to be trusted.

His most powerful example of this, though he may have been too young to fully appreciate the implications, was her denial of the home invasion and subsequent rape.  One can think of no more damaging form of invalidation than this secret which served only to shatter Tom's sense of trust and security in the world.  Tom easily understood why he should distrust; even hate the perpetrators of this crime, though he was unable to integrate the experience of denial his mother used to cope with her own anguish.

The introjection of this experience sets the stage for Tom to struggle with trust, as he learned at this tender age that the person who he is supposed to trust the most to take care of him, was the person he must trust the least.  His mother was incapable of providing the necessary holding environment, or to perform as the "good enough mother" in order for healing to take place.  Tom internalized this experience, which likely shattered his internal cohesiveness that was already fragile at best.  He then gave "pieces of himself' away for safekeeping (projection).  For example, he gave his strength and courage to Luke (good object), his insight and emotional sensitivity to Savannah, the poet (good object) and he gave his anger and hate to Lila, (bad object).

An alternative interpretation lies in the notion that Luke's death represents the loss of Tom's good object and consequently leaves him "less than whole" and thus his experience of being damaged and unworthy of love.  An important piece to this loss is that Luke died while fighting for the right to stay on the Carolina Sea Island where they had grown up, after Lila selfishly betrayed the family and sold it.  Luke's best quality, his courage and willingness to fight back also turned out to be his fatal flaw as he was shot and killed in the standoff with the government.  Undoubtedly, this added to Tom's experience of a "back stabbing" mother.

A very important piece of Tom's clinical picture includes his apparent "post traumatic" experiences of his childhood.  These episodes seem to be triggered by affect-producing, current family events, that should provide pleasurable feelings for him.  Instead, he is often on the periphery, coping with the experience of a flashback (bad images of objects), watching the current scene as if he were an observer rather than a participant. 

In fact, Tom's flashbacks play an important role in the reparation of his childhood into his present life as they serve to interfere with his attachment to his family thus maintaining his internal object representations and their interactions within his psyche.

Tom's Journey Towards Finding His True Self

Tom's relationship with Dr. Lowenstein began at her request for information in order to treat Savannah.  At the time, Savannah was unable to recall important pieces of her childhood and Tom was to serve as her memory.  It is interesting to note that Savannah and Tom are twins and seem to need the other in order to be complete.  They also need one another in order to break free.

According to Graham-Berman, et al., (1994) cited in Leavitt et al (1998), children who have experienced sexual trauma may divide survival tasks and as a result they may lose the ability to function on an emotional level separate from one another.  Towards this end, it became necessary for Savannah to become sick in order for both of them to "get well".  Tom's new environment helped him to step outside of his old patterns and gave him some distance from his relationship with his wife. He was fighting for Savannah's life, thus fighting for his own.  For her sake, he was forced to face his own demons.  This meant challenging his defenses and questioning his loyalty to the "Southern Tradition", which equates with keeping the family secret.

Tom's relationship with Dr. Lowenstein was complicated, to say the least.  He was not her patient in a traditional sense.  He was not paying her for psychotherapy but rather he was meeting with her in order to provide family information for the treatment of Savannah.  In any case, the relationship was composed of therapeutic elements as well as a mutual friendship, that grew into an intimate sexual union.  Again Tom chooses a "doctor" with the unconscious hope that the relationship will provide a corrective experience.  Clearly this sexual relationship poses an ethical dilemma, though it won't be dealt with in this article.

Clinical implications

Dr. Lowenstein provided the necessary holding environment for Tom, which enabled him to begin to integrate his emotional self with his intellectual self.  She served as his good enough mother, and became his object, through which he then introjected a more positive, capable self, replacing the "bad object" (Lila) and thus the "bad" or damaged self.  By providing a safe environment Tom was able to re-experience love and intimacy with an Object (mother) that was healthy rather than narcissistic and invalidating.

This love relationship clearly emerged out of transference.  Tom saw Dr. Lowenstein fiercely advocating for his sister, much in the way a mother would protect and fight for her own daughter.  She was a "beautiful woman" like his mother, though she possessed empathic qualities and was capable of acting as "the good enough mother."

Another component is the fact that she was a doctor like his wife, and Tom may have unconsciously been hoping that their relationship would provide a corrective experience.  An important scene that symbolized Tom's experience was when he saw the blood stain on his sister's floor.  It was there from her suicide attempt and represented the pain and anguish related to the trauma of their childhood, most significantly the rape.  The neighbor commented that he had tried to remove the stain but that it wouldn't come out.  This is in contrast to the bloodstains on the wall immediately after the home invasion and sexual assault. In that scene the mother washed the walls clean.  There was no evidence of a crime.  The bloodstain provides powerful symbolism of the existence of the "blood" in spite of his silence for all these years.

With this insight Tom was able to finally break the silence and to defy his mother's interpretation of the "Southern Tradition".  This experience was a major catharsis, reducing Tom's high levels of anxiety.  The conflict becomes conscious allowing him to utilize insight to reorganize his internal environment, which strengthens his ego.  His super ego mandate thus becomes loyalty to his family rather than to a family secret.  Tom redefines the "Southern Tradition" and begins to regain the lost parts of his "self."

Good examples of this process include Tom's work with Dr. Lowenstein's son.  Through coaching, Tom was able to regain his occupational identity, which he had previously discarded.  This demonstrates Tom's journey towards autonomy.  The second example is when Tom began to see Dr. Lowenstein's vulnerabilities and pain.  He responded to this by moving out of the victim role and into a caretaking/protecting role.  More evidence that Tom has reclaimed lost parts of his "self."

Once Tom took the necessary risk to engage in these relationships, he had begun his journey towards finding his "true self," a self that had more strengths and effective coping strategies than he had previously imagined.  Tom's psychic structure was changed, as his unconscious conflict was resolved. This provided the necessary bridge to re-establishing a more healthy intimate relationship with his wife and family and to resume his career as a coach, which he had quit due to his internalization of his mother's belief that the job was beneath him.  Tom no longer carried with him his mother as object.  He was free.


According to Coker in Edward and Sanville (1996), it is most ideal for the client to bring up the topic of termination.  In any case Coker (1986) recommends a period of at least six weeks to prepare the client for termination.  The following four steps are recommended: (l) informing the client before the start of treatment, (2) leaving time for discussion, (3) facilitating the expression of feelings, and (4) recognizing indirect expression of reactions, as perhaps in dreams memories, or other themes of separation.  Both the psychotherapist and the client need to recognize that something good has resulted from the therapy and from the meaningfulness of their relationship (Coker, 1996).

In Tom's case, termination was addressed in several ways.  Dr. Lowenstein first mentioned it when she predicted that Tom's wife Sally would agree to reconcile.  Of course, prior to that it was implied that the relationship would be terminated when Savannah was out of danger or significantly improved.  In the end it was Tom who made the decision to terminate.  They had hours rather than weeks to process their feelings.

Tom was certainly able to recognize the significance of the relationship.  This is depicted with an interesting metaphor at the conclusion of the movie when Tom was driving over a very long bridge and he spontaneously shouted out "LOWENSTEIN!"


The experience of trauma is a key organizational element in the life of an adult.  Defenses such as denial and avoidance are used both consciously and unconsciously in an attempt to contradict the reality of the traumatic event.  Sexual trauma has lasting effects, often manifesting in the form of issues related to trust, self-esteem and attachment.  This is the foundation of the object relational assumption of childhood trauma.  A sexual trauma is seen as an abandonment of the child both by the perpetrator, who in this case was a stranger, and by the non-protecting, or in this case the invalidating parent.  A child is not equipped to reconcile this betrayal and endeavors to psychically shelter the parental bond (Dalzell, 1998).

Effective treatment is directed at encouraging regression, in which dissociated memories can emerge. The psychotherapist must then effect a holding environment in which the patients' "internalized world of traumatogenic self and object representations" emerge (Davies & Frawley cited in Dalzell, 1998, p. 73).  According to Dalzall (1998), transference is an important element of treatment, which should be encouraged and subsequently examined in order for the client to begin to replace their old methods of thinking and behavior with newer and healthier patterns.  In the end Tom found his "true self" and the strength to love and forgive his mother and father because "in family there are no crimes that cannot be forgiven."


Coker, M., (1996). Ending where the client is: A psychodynamic approach to forced
terminations. In J. Edward & J. B. Sanville (Ed.), Fostering healing and growth: a
psychoanalytic social work approach (pp. 353-371). Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.

Dalzell, H. J. (1998). Childhood sexual abuse: psychoanalytic perspectives. Journal of Analytic Social Work, Vol. 5(1), 63-75.

Freeman, E., (1996). Psychoanalysis and the world of two: object relations couple therapy. In J. Edward & J.B. Sanville (Ed.), Fostering healing and growth: a psychoanalytic social work approach (pp. 353-371). Northvale, New Jersey: Jason Aronson Inc.

Hamilton, N. G., (1996). The self and the ego in psychotherapy. New Jersey, London:  Jason Aronson Inc.

Leavitt, K. S., Gardner, S. A, Gallagher, M.M., & Schamess, G. (1998) Severely traumatized siblings: a treatment strategy. Clinical Social Work Journal, Vol. 26 No. 1, 55-71.

Miehls, D. (1997). Projective identification in sexual abuse survivors and their partners:  couple treatment implications. Journal of Analytic Social Work, Vol. 4(2), 5-21.

Strean, R., (1996). Psychoanalytic theory and social work treatment. In F.T. Turner (Ed.), Social work treatment: interlocking theoretical approaches (pp.523-580). New York, London: The Free Press.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Three Strikes You're Out Law, Beth Bramble, LCSW & Scott Tomsovic, LCSW

This article was written by Beth Bramble and Scott Tomsovic in 1998. We decided to take a second look at this extremely contraversial topic almost 14 years later. Here is the original article.

Three Strikes And You're Out
As a reaction to what many Americans see as an increasingly violent national landscape, the amount of money invested in American prison systems has reached an all time high. The number of Americans held in prisons has tripled in the last fifteen years (The CASA Report, 1997). Yet, violent crime continues at intolerably high levels.

In the 1980's a growing sentiment appeared among the populace at large, which was expressed by various slogans with a common theme: "get tough on crime." This outcry was partially based on the perception that criminals were not jailed or were released soon after incarceration. Politicians were quick to seize on this public sentiment.

In 1993, the state of Washington passed what has become known as the "Three Strikes, You're Out Law", allowing those who have been convicted of three felonious crimes to be imprisoned for life without parole. In the following years, 22 states passed similar laws. California has the most stringent interpretation; offering judges no discretion in dismissing strikes or pronouncing sentences.

It is the intent of the authors to critically evaluate California's Three Strikes Law in order to determine its effectiveness as a means to keep the public safe from violent crime.

Description of the Problem
According to Shinbein (1996), one fourth of Americans have been either a victim of a crime involving violence or been threatened with violence. In 1996, over 275,000 Californians alone were victims of violent crimes (Crime Victims United of California). This fact is one component in the public outcry for more vigorous prosecutions.

At the end of 1996, more than 1.7 million American Adults were behind bars (The CASA Report, 1997). Vitiello (1997) states there was a 31% increase in the American prison population between 1988 and 1994, yet a preponderance of Americans felt more susceptible to violent crime than ever before. During this era, there was a 34% increase in the number of murders in California, ranking the state at number eight in murder-rate growth (Vitiello, 1997).

According to Heglin (1994), many theories attempt to explain effective methods for restraining criminal behavior. These theories are often divided by political leanings. Heglin (1994) generalized these leanings as a conservative view and a liberal view. The conservative viewpoint tends to "lean toward stricter rules on incarceration while the liberal perspective leans toward caring more for the socioeconomic causes of crime and implementation of preventative and rehabilitative measures" (Heglin, p. 2, 1994). The
significance of The Three Strikes Law with respect to the evolution of social welfare policy in California differs depending on these perspectives.

Proponents of the Three Strikes Law argue that a small percentage of criminals perpetrate the greater percentage of the crimes and these repeat offenders should be punished accordingly. Heglin (1994)points to a study conducted in Philadelphia that showed that two-thirds of violent crime was committed by seven percent of the criminals. Both liberals and conservatives are concerned about violent crime; therefore, both groups need "to focus some effort at controlling this limited group of repeat criminals"
(Heglin, p. 2, 1996).

Background of Three Strikes
The United States has had mandatory punishments for those convicted of crimes since colonial times.  According to Shinbein (1996), "Early 19th-century legislatures set maximum punishments for each offense category, although the actual duration of imprisonment was left to the trial courts to determine on a case­ by-case basis" (p.9).

Shinbein (1996) notes that "most of the current habitual offender statutes requiring courts to impose enhanced sentences for repeat offenders, did not appear until the 1970's" (p.9). According to Heglin (1994), both Texas and West Virginia adopted a version of Three Strikes legislation in the early 1970s. During this same time California was attempting to strengthen its laws with new legislation.

The California legislature enacted the Uniform Comprehensive Determinate Sentencing Scheme (U.D.S.A.) in 1977 to replace California's indeterminate sentencing law. The U.D.S.A. was widely criticized due to its short sentences and limitations on enhancements. Consequently, Proposition 8, also known as "The Victims' Bill of Rights" was passed in 1982.

Proposition 8 was intended to protect society from dangerous offenders by addressing the concerns of crime victims through harsher treatment of convicted offenders, including two sections that lengthened sentences (Shinbein, 1996).

Two tragic events in California precipitated the Three Strikes policy proposals. The first was the 1992 murder of Kimber Reynolds who was killed by a convicted felon in front of 24 witnesses after she resisted his attempt to take her purse. Shortly thereafter, Kimber's father proposed a ballot initiative to stop the recidivism problem. McClain (1996) states that "the initiative was designed to impose double and triple prison terms, and reduce the parole opportunities of repeat offenders" (p. 2). Initially, the bill, AB 971, was defeated by The Assembly Public Safety Committee.

The second, and most widely publicized tragedy, was the kidnapping and subsequent murder of twelve-year-old Polly Klaas in October of 1993. This brutal act was particularly distressing because the murderer had a long criminal history including seventeen arrests, three of them for kidnapping and sexual abuse (McClain, 1996). Polly Klaas's murder led to a continued public outcry and a concern about repeat offenders.

As a reaction to this public outrage, California's legislators enacted the Three Strikes bill as emergency legislation to amend the State Penal Code. Subsequently, voters approved a similar provision that was added to the California Penal Code (McClain, 1996).

Despite wide public support, the Three Strikes Law has been controversial. According to McClain(1996), the severe limitations placed on the court's discretion to lessen sentences are one of the many issues currently being argued in the courts.

On June 20, 1996, the California Supreme Court, ruling in the Romero case, unanimously stated that judges have the right to disregard prior convictions if they think a mandatory sentence would be too cruel. As a reaction to this decision, and in an attempt to plug any loopholes created by the Romero decision, SB33 was introduced stating that a judge is not authorized to strike any prior conviction of a serious felony. SB331 died in the Criminal Procedures Committee of the Senate receiving only one favorable vote by Senator Ross Johnson (R-Irvine) (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Chronology of Events, 1998).

Another important ruling is the July 3, 1997 California Supreme Court decision that a Three Strikes defendant could be punished for a past juvenile conviction, committed at age 16 or 17, in the same way as for a past adult conviction. The only exceptions are a small group of crimes listed in a different section of the law, notably residential burglary and unarmed robbery (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Chronology of Events, 1998).

In February 1998, SB2048 was introduced to amend the Three Strikes Law so it would not be applicable to nonviolent and non-serious offenses (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Chronology of Events, 1998). SB2048 passed the full California Senate after being amended to require that the state conduct a study of the cost effectiveness of the Three-Strikes Law.

On September 13 1998, Governor Wilson vetoed SB2048 stating that "Studies have already been conducted, and while none could accurately assess the value of human lives saved, one of two reports by the Rand Corporation projected a 21% reduction in crime attributable to implementation of 'Three Strikes'"(Veto Message, 1998).

In May of 1998 the California Supreme Court held that multiple counts during one act could count as multiple strikes (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Chronology of Events, 1998).

Description Of The Policy
California's Three Strikes Law falls into two separate codes, statutes-sections 667 and 1170.12.  Section 667 carries the modifications made by the state Legislature in 1994, whereas section 1170.12 was created by the voters' approval of Proposition 184 in November 1994. In most respects, the two laws are indistinguishable:

If the person has one previous violent or serious felony conviction, he or she is sentenced to twice the term prescribed by law for each new felony if the person has two previous violent or serious felony convictions, he or she is sentenced to life in prison (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: The Three Strikes Law).

Heglin (1994) examines how the Three Strikes Law relates to a general theory of punishment by assessing the ways in which the four primary purposes or effects of punishment; rehabilitation, retribution, deterrence and incapacitation are accomplished by the Three Strikes Law.

Heglin (1994) points out that "rehabilitation is generally not an objective of the current Three Strikes legislation" (p.3). He further states that since the enhancement of punishment for a third conviction is over and above what is normally received, it would seem that retribution is too zealously applied in Three Strikes Law (Heglin, p.3, 1994). Consequently, he concludes that the proposed Three Strikes legislation rests on incapacitation and deterrence (Heglin, 1994).

To many people, three strikes simply has two purposes vis-a-vis punishment: to intimidate criminals with severe penalties so that they will not commit crimes, and to put those who satisfy the Three Strikes criterion in prison for the rest of their lives to keep society free from harm(Vitiello, 1997).

Proponents are using crime statistics that show a reduction in crime in the state of California. However, little has been done to prove a connection between the Three Strikes Law and this reduction.

Opponents argue that there are other reasons for the reduction in crime and responded with SB2048, which would require an in-depth analysis of the efficacy of Three Strikes. As previously discussed, SB2040 was vetoed by Governor Wilson.

Amending three strikes through the legislative route, which requires a two­ thirds vote by the California Senate and Assembly and the governors signature, is not likely as it has occurred only twice in California history (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Locked in to Three
Strikes Law?).

Ideological Assumptions
The ideological assumptions as well as criticisms that underlie the Three Strikes law will be examined within the framework of DiNitto's (1995) political approach to policy making. According to DiNitto (1995), a political perspective of public policy is "the outcome of conflicts in government over who gets what when, and how they get it" (p. 8).

She contends that in order for a policy to be considered politically rational, it must win the necessary support to be enacted into law, it must be implemented by executive agencies; and finally, it must be enforced in the courts. Social and economic justice, along with issues regarding the constitutionality of the Three Strikes Law, will be examined in the context of this framework.

The ideology of the criminal justice system has shifted dramatically in the last two decades. It has gone from a belief in the human potential for redemption and rehabilitation, to a retributivist model of punishment in the 1970s, and finally to our current philosophy in favor of incapacitation and deterrence.

Prior to the 1970s, California led the nation in the implementation of indeterminate sentencing. This sentencing scheme, which was based on the rehabilitative model, theorized that the offender could be released from prison when he or she was "cured" of his or her criminality.

Disapproval and criticism of this model led to sentencing reform in the 1970s (Vitiello, 1997). This change in public discourse concerning crime and punishment was not simply a shift towards conservatism; liberals also took part in this attack on the rehabilitative model (Vitiello, 1997).

Three Strikes exemplifies this shift in penological philosophy away from the retributivist justification for punishment. It is based on the value premise that the pain inflicted by the punishment of incapacitation is justified if greater good results from its imposition.

Both incapacitation and deterrence are supported by utilitarian arguments, which state that punishment should be imposed if it will lead to a net benefit (Vitiello, 1997).

Who is Really Targeted by Three Strikes?
The general objective of the law is to enhance the total satisfaction of the community and to exclude everything that is inclined to subtract from that happiness. In other words, its objective is to eliminate crime (Vitiello, 1997). In so doing, however, lawmakers choose to ignore an array of social problems, which are highly correlated with crime. Such social problems can include drug and alcohol problems, economic depravation, mental illness, and racism.

According to the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA) report (1997), between 1980-1995, drug law violators comprised 30% of the total increase in the state prison population. In 1996, $30 billion dollars was spent incarcerating individuals who had a history of drug use. These individuals were convicted of drug and alcohol violations, were high on drugs and alcohol at the time of their crime, or committed their crime to get money to buy drugs. The CASA report predicts that if this trend continues, the nation will spend more than $100 million dollars a day by the year 2000 to incarcerate individuals with serious drug and alcohol problems.

According to Mikey Gunderson (personal communication, October 26, 1998), the program manager of Roads to Recovery, an alternative program for drug offenders in the San Francisco County Jail #7, only about 4% (her estimate) of the cases that are "striking out" involve violent offenses. The remaining cases include non-violent drug related offenses.

In 1998 The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office stated that 75% of the Three-Strikes cases are neither serious nor violent. Most involve petty theft with a prior or minor drug violations and 38% were identified as "Crimes Against Persons."

According to Justin Walker (personal communication, November 20, 1998), currently on parole in the state of California, this failure to consider rehabilitation as a viable alternative to long sentences is motivated by a political system which took advantage of a "vulnerable" California for the purpose of their own political gain. Walker points out that many third-strike offenders are drug addicts and are "starving, strung-out and hopeless. They want help." Rather than helping, however, he views the system as throwing them away into prisons, which have become increasingly violent. He argues that prior to being incarcerated in a California State Prison, he was a mild mannered man. Now he says, "prison taught me how to hate. I don't even know who I am anymore."

Anthony Lopez-Baldwin (personal communication, November 20, 1998), currently on parole in the state of California, believes that the law unfairly targets the poor and young people. Lopez-Baldwin, who was released from a California State prison in October of 1998, says that the thought of spending the rest of his life in jail after a third strike has deterred him from considering criminal behavior as an option in the future. He is currently in drug treatment at MILESTONES, a program for ex-offenders in San Francisco.

Opponents of Three Strikes argue that there is a segment of the American population, by way of socioeconomic conditions, most notably African Americans, that is more likely to commit the types of crimes that qualify as "strikes." These individuals tend to be unemployed and of low socioeconomic status with little access to legal sources of income (Vitiello, 1997).

Race issues may also play a role in how Three Strikes is exercised. Opponents point out that the law targets African Americans unfairly. According to Vitiello (1997), African-Americans comprise 7% of California's residents, yet this population accounts for 23% of all felony arrests and 38% of all second and third strike felony convictions.

Prior to 1990, psychiatrists did not believe that mental illness accounted for increased crime. That thinking has changed. It is now widely recognized that there is a clear relationship between violent criminal behavior and mental illness. At an American Psychiatric Association symposium, James C. Beck of Harvard University, reported findings from five community studies that showed that among those who self-report violent criminal behavior, 10-12% were diagnosed with schizophrenia (Benjamin, 1995).

A similar study in Australia showed that one in three people convicted of serious violent crimes in the state of Victoria have been treated for a mental disorder. The study also revealed that half the states arsonists and many convicted murderers and sex offenders had been identified with psychiatric conditions (Silvester, 1998).

Additional concerns include the laws' possible repercussions such as leaving families of the incarcerated with no source of income. Consequently, this could increase the number of families dependent upon welfare programs (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Latest Statistics, 1998).

The Hidden Costs of Three Strikes
Three Strikes policy has resulted in the overcrowding of the court system. In order to elude acquisition of a "strike," very few accused are willing to plea bargain their cases. Instead, lengthy sentences have motivated numerous defendants to go to trial instead of pleading guilty. This has tripled the number of court cases in some California counties (Three Strikes Update, Criminal Justice Consortium). Moreover, it will be obligatory to house convicted second and third strikers for longer terms.

Proponents of Three Strikes stated that the measure would target rapists, murderers and child molesters and would put these offenders behind bars. They argued that Three Strikes would serve the public by protecting their lives and by saving tax dollars. Proponents held that the Three Strikes law would target only career criminals, specifically, those with a history of committing serious/violent crimes. They suggest that the Californian taxpayers would save money because they would not have to pay the costs resulting from recidivism, thus suggesting the savings created by the initiative (Vitiello, 1997).

This argument sounds plausible in the abstract, however, in reality, the 1998-1999 California budget for judicial and criminal justice programs is $6.3 billion. This figure includes $5.7 billion from the General Fund and $634 million from state special funds. This reflects an 11 percent increase over 1997-98 expenditures.

This increase is a result of heightened financial responsibility for support of trial courts and spending to accommodate the projected growth in the state's prison and parole populations (Major features of the 1998 California Budget). The California Department of Corrections expects that the number of second and third strike felons in the prison population will exceed 55,000 by 2002 (Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Latest Statistics, 1998,)

This use of tax dollars can conceivably draw potential funds away from education or any other social programs. On the basis of these considerations alone, it might be concluded that the fiscal burden of the Three Strikes You're Out legislation outweighs its benefit.

Rehabilitation vs. Incapacitation
Vitiello (1997) asserts that the existing predilection for incapacitation is to some extent based upon the notion that less costly rehabilitative programs are ineffective. Policy makers are starting to reexamine that assumption. Few would contend that all offenders are redeemable, though most would agree that some are capable of rehabilitation at a cost significantly less than the cost of warehousing them.

According to Greg Grove (personal communication, November 23, 1998), the Parole Unit Supervisor for San Francisco Unit #2, Parole and Community Services Division, alternative programs such as MILESTONES, a community based program, and Roads to Recovery, a program at San Francisco County
Jail #7, are more effective and less expensive alternatives to incarcerating non-violent offenders.

Three Strikes is based on the theory of incapacitation, which looks ahead to promised benefits such as reducing crime (Viteillo), The ethics of incapacitation have been the focus of intense controversy.

Some of the arguments surrounding Three Strikes center on the culpability of the repeat offender, and the idea of predicting future harm. Relying on re-offender statistics, proponents justify increased sentences by citing predictions of future criminal behavior, basing punishment not on what a person has done, but on what they might do in the future.

On the other hand, proponents of the retributivist theory justify punishment based on the notion that it is deserved. Sentencing would then be based upon a determination of the harm done to society. This type of sentencing does not take into consideration the idea of possible future harm (Vitiello).

Parole Unit Supervisor Grove (1998), states that approximately 11% of the population commits all of the crime. Within that population, 6 to 7% of those individuals are violent. The theory is that over time, the Three Strikes Law will incarcerate this group of offenders for life.

The theory of incapacitation has strong initiative application. The argument is simple; people who are incarcerated cannot commit crimes against society. Proponents have argued that Three Strikes has lowered crime rates. In a response to this claim, Vitiello (1997) points out that for this to be accurate, it must be a result of the law's deterrent effect rather than from the enhanced prison sentences (Vitiello).

Vitiello (1997) also points out that an argument against this logic can be made based on the fact that most felons will continue to commit crimes upon their release from prison, especially if their release comes during their younger years. Therefore, incapacitation of these young offenders should reduce the crime rate within society (Vitiello).

Efforts to empirically validate these theories are complicated. Professor Franklin Zimring and Dr. Gordon Hawkins (cited in Vitiello, 1997) acknowledge that incapacitation through incarceration might decrease crime. They also point out that examination of the data causes suspicion about the causal link between incarceration and the crime rate (Vitiello).

Grove (1998) states that while the crime rate has been decreasing in the state, it is difficult to prove it is due to the law. It is his opinion that it is just too early to tell if the law does what it proposes to do.

According to Vitiello (1997), there are many problems with studies aimed at the cost-benefit analysis advanced by proponents of incapacitation because estimates of crime rates are notoriously imprecise. Studies have varied in estimates of the number of crimes prevented per year from 3 to 187 per offender. That kind of disparity should reduce one's confidence in relying on any of the existing studies (Vitiello).

Incapacitation and Profit
Vitiello (1997) contends that politicians have reason to appear tough on crime. He points to what he calls the "Prison-Industrial Complex" consisting of various people who profit economically from building and maintaining prisons, they also give substantial campaign contributions thus making them a powerful lobbying group.

According to James Morman (personal communication, November 20, 1998), a California parolee, "it's all about money and slave labor of the underclass society." He referred to this system as the "new economic structure, motivated by power and economies."

Donzinger (cited in Vitiello, 1997) states that the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), is the most powerful prison guards' union and is the second largest campaign donor in the state. The CCPOA contributed the second-highest sum in support of Proposition 184, (the Three Strikes initiative) with contributions amounting to approximately one million for each campaign cycle.

These funds supported candidates who promote prison growth including an expenditure of over one million dollars, which was donated in support of Governor Pete Wilson's 1994 campaign. The CCPOA contributed $1.4 million to Pete Wilson's 1990 and 1994 gubernatorial campaigns. Subsequently, Wilson initiated the most costly prison construction plan in the history of the United States (Vitiello, 1997).

According to Grove (1998) in 1981, there were 11 state prisons. There are currently 33 prisons and all are filled to 180% capacity. This means there are 18 people for every 10 beds (G. Grove, personal communication, November 23, 1998).

Consequently, according to Vitiello (1997), the number of California prison guards nearly doubled, from about 7,500 to 14,249 between 1985 and 1990. By 1994, that number jumped to 22,547. This impressive increase in numbers is coupled with equally impressive salaries for prison guards.

According to Vitiello (1997), California prison guards with a high school diploma and six years on the job now earn $45,000 annually. These salaries
accounted for approximately 65 percent of the Department of Corrections budget in 1994. The economic implications of Three Strikes for CCPOA members is evident.

Age and Recidivism
Three Strikes creates an aging prison population. Older prisoners cost three times more to house than younger inmates due to the needs associated with aging (Vitiello, 1997). The New York State Department of Correctional Services has maintained statistics correlating age and recidivism. The results are consistent with a widely recognized fact that criminality diminishes with age (Vitiello, 1997). The added cost cannot be justified by risk of recidivism if those prisoners were released to the community.

Is It Constitutional?
One test of whether political policy is considered to be rational is if the law is upheld in court (DiNitto, 1995). The issue of constitutionality has come into question with regards to the current Three Strikes Law and is currently being argued in California courtrooms. However, the United States Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of mandatory life sentences imposed by state statutes in other states such as Texas.

The Court held that the Texas habitual offender statute did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court agreed those sentence enhancements are appropriate for habitual criminals (Shinbein, 1996).

Many law enforcement officials have expressed concern that Three Strikes has created more violent and unmanageable offenders. An offender who is facing his third strikable offense may resist arrest with extreme violence (Vitiello, 1997). Parolee Morman (1998), points out that he knows "a number of people who will hold court right there in the street rather than get arrested for a third strike." Vitiello (1997) also points to concerns about the ever-increasing number of violent offenders warehoused in county jails increasing the likelihood of violent attacks on corrections officers and other inmates. There is a need to step up the security in these instances, which is another added expense for the state.

Deterrence arguments are notoriously difficult to evaluate because of the impossibility of evaluating crimes that did not take place due to harsh penalties. The claim that the threat of strict sanctions will prevent crime has more initiative appeal than factual support.

Over 200 years ago, Cesare Beccaria (cited in Vitiello, 1997) maintained that certainty of punishment has more deterrent results than severity of punishment. More recent studies support that conclusion. Vitiello (1997) points to a California study, which also concluded that increased severity had no effect on the crime rate.

Although California has had a dramatic decline in its crime rate, other states such as New York where no Three Strikes Law is in effect, have also exhibited declining crime rates (Vitiello, 1997).

In Texas, economic burdens and arguments that the Texas habitual criminal statute goes against assumptions of fundamental fairness have plagued the law and the State of Texas since its inception (Owens, 1995).

In comparing the Texas law to California's Three Strikes Law, one member of the Texas bench predicted that California's Three Strikes may ultimately fail simply because it does not make sense to send someone away for life for petty theft (Owens, 1995).

A major criticism of the Three Strikes Laws in California and Washington is that they cast too broad a net. When the law is enforced as it is currently written, not only does it target the violent criminals, but also those non-violent criminals supposedly not intended to fall under the Three Strikes statutes.

One problem with enforcing a statute like this is the enormous prison population that results (Shinbein, 1996). Another issue is that there are not enough resources available in California to impose life sentences on offenders who have never engaged in serious violence towards others.

The resulting cost is predicted to be so colossal that taxpayers will have to choose between paying double their current taxes to fund the project,
or risk losing their state universities and colleges. Therefore, the expected costs placed on the California Three-Strikes provisions far outweigh the intended benefits because of limited resources (Shinbein, 1996).

Shinbein (1996) argues that the research used to justify the Three Strikes Law has been sorely misinterpreted. Proponents often fail to recognize the proposal's limited effect on crime and the variety of negative consequences, which have resulted (Shinbein, 1996). Shinbein (1996) points to the fact that criminologists have never been able to predict recidivism rates among high-rate offenders with any amount of accuracy. Studies have all been retrospective, using arrest records to identify individuals after they have
committed a number of crimes. Investigators in these studies failed to predict which of these offenders would continue to commit crimes in the future.

Shinbein (1996) states that the primary goal of the Three Strikes Law is to protect society from violence. To fulfill this objective, legislatures must draft a new law that targets only truly violent criminals. Sentences for individuals accused of property crimes should be left to the discretion of judges.

Opponents of the Three Strikes law point out that the legislation calls for more money to be spent on punishment than prevention. They suggest that if the goal were crime prevention, some of the money would be better spent on intervention programs for youth as well as adults that employ job training and placement programs. These programs are particularly useful in targeting juveniles before they become perpetrators of crime (Shinbein, 1996).

In October 1994, The National Recreation and Park Association released a study of prevention programs showing evidence that recreation and training can contribute to the decline in crime and juvenile arrest rates. It should also be noted that in 1989 the Dallas police Department recorded a 26% drop in juvenile arrests after a gang intervention program sponsored by seventeen civic organizations that reached out to 3000 youths with education, recreation, and job training programs.

Similarly, a juvenile crime rate drop of 27% in Fort Meyers Florida was recorded since the start up three years ago of STARS, an academic
and recreational program targeted at youth(Shinbein, 1996). These results speak loudly to the fact that community based programs can and do have an impact on the reduction of crime, and do it for far less of a price in dollars.

Based on this truth, the authors recommend that the Three Strikes Law be amended to target the violent, or potentially violent, criminals of our society. If we are truly an advanced society, we will use a rational approach to dealing with crime, one that distinguishes more clearly between violent and nonviolent offenders.


ACLU Press Release: 03-05-98-ACLU Says Three Strikes Law Not the Reason for Crime Reduction. [Online]. Available.
September, 5 1998.

Baldwin, Anthony Lopez-personal communication

Benjamin, M. (1995) The psychopathology of Violent Crime. APA meeting Update. [Online] Available. December 6, 1998.

Bureau of Justice Statistics Courts and Sentencing Statistics. [Online]. Available. October 11, 1998

CASA Report: Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population.
[Online].Available.http:/// July 29,1998.

The California Criminal Law Observer: The Three Strikes Initiative Effective November
9, 1994. [Online]. Available.
September 9, 1998.

Crime Victims United of California. [Online]. Available. October 11, 1998.

DiNitto, D. M., (1995). Social Welfare Politics and Public Policy (4th ed.). Boston, London, Toronto: Allyn and Bacon

Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes. Chronology of Events. [Online] Available September 9, 1998.

Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Locked into Three Strikes Law? [Online].
Available. October 3, 1998.

Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: The Three Strikes Law. [Online]. Available. October 3, 1998.

Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes: Latest Statistics. [On-line]. Available October 3, 1998.

Grove, Greg personal communication

Gunderson, Mikey- personal communication

Heglin, R. (1994) A Flurry Of Recidivist Legislation Means: "Three Strikes And You're Out". Journal of Legislation. [On-line]. Available. WESTLAW.

Major Features of the California Budget. [Online]. Available. major-features.html October 11, 1998.

McClain, M. (1996). "Three Strikes And You're Out": The Solution To The Repeat Offender Problem?" Seton Hall Legislative Journal. [Online]. Available. WESTLAW.

Morman, James-personal commuinication

SB331 [Online ].Available.

Shinbein, I.M. (1996). "Three -Strikes and You're Out" A Good Political Slogan to Reduce Crime, but a Failure in it's Application. New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confmement. [On-line]. Available: Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe

Silvester, J. (1998). Report Links Crime and Mental Illness. The Age, Daily News.[Online ] Available wysiwyg:/ /25/ lInews/news3 .html 12-6-98

Three Strikes Update[Online].Available.!sept95/3strikes.html September 4, 1998

Veto Message. Bill Number: SB 2048. [Online] Available
October 3, 1998

Vitiello, M., 1997. Criminal Law: Three Strikes, Can We Return to Rationality? Journal
of Criminal Law and Criminology. [On-line]. Available: Lexis-Nexis Academic

Vitiello, M., (June 1997). "Three Strikes" And the Romero Case: The Supreme Court
Restores Democracy. Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. [On-line]. Available: Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe

Walker, Justin-personal communication

Zimring, F .E. (1996). Populism, Democratic Government, and the Decline of Expert
Authority: Some Reflections on "Three Strikes" in California. Pacific Law Journal. [On-line], Available: Nexis-Lexis Academic Universe