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“Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes Law” by Kieso Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2021

Introduction

The question of justice is multifaceted, which makes people wonder what it actually means. It is a pervasive issue which concerns each citizen who recognizes himself as part of a community. The importance of justice is hard to underestimate because most people would not be able to make sense of their daily lives without it. It is therefore essential to understand to which extent various aspects of life are grounded on justice, as it is indicative of more significant processes happening across society. The book Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes Law by Douglas W. Kieso is a compelling analysis of one of the aspects of American society today, such as law. The subject of Kieso’s book is California Three Strikes Law, which has a somewhat controversial reputation around the country. The purpose of this paper is to give a concise review of the book.

Author’s Message

First, let us start with the message Douglas W. Kieso has tried to convey to his readers. It is not clearly stated either in the book, but its name and spirit give a reader a sense of critical view on the existing Three Strikes Law in California. On many occasions, the author states that this law is problematic from multiple perspectives. He also points to the difference between California’s Three Strikes Law and similar recidivist laws in other states. Kieso presents and elaborates on most thinkable injustices associated with the law and seeds an idea that legislation has more serious implications than it seems. Their effects are long-term and influence the lives of many individuals, especially those who are already marginalized.

Primary Sources

To make his point, Kieso as a criminal justice expert turns to a variety of primary resources. First of all, the law itself is an important “wellhead” for this book and the critique of it. Secondly, Kieso refers to the Eighth Amendment to the US 1791 Constitution to dwell on the issue of one’s constitutional rights when it comes to getting cruel and unusual punishment (Kieso, 2005, 192). Thirdly, the author considers several judicial cases which deal with the main issues of the book. For example, he reflects on the case Ewing v. California, which was rejected by the US Supreme Court in 2002 (Kieso, 2005, 2000). It was the example when the supreme judiciary decided to look at the state legislation based on an individual’s reference to the court. Among other cases, the author mentions are Solem v. Helm, Rummel v. Estelle, Harmelin v. Michigan, Rummel v. Estelle, People v. Superior Court. The selection of these sources is accurate, but the author gives an overarching framework rather than a full list of sources, which could be relevant for his study.

The Choice of Evidence

The next reasonable part of the review is to discuss whether the author has chosen and presented the evidence carefully. Although Kieso doesn’t seek to make his analysis balanced, he still manages to introduce different aspects of injustice around the law. Furthermore, he doesn’t leave a reader with only questions but eventually gives many suggestions to solve the problem. It wouldn’t have been possible without a careful choice of the material and reasonable structure of the work. Kieso gives enough judicial evidence, but he also bolsters his argument with some statistics. For example, in chapter 2, the author provides a reader with a somewhat surprising fact that young black males find themselves in a perilous predicament of being murdered in big cities (Kieso, 2005, 22). This statistics is meant to persuade a reader of how misperceptions can play a significant role in creating some legislation that may target already vulnerable groups.

The Method of Research

The book is the result of qualitative research, the purpose of which is to determine the relationship between the Three Strikes Law and justice. In other words, the author noticed apparent discrepancies in the law and attempted to pinpoint them by reflecting on the aspects of justice applicable in the relevant cases. Although the research conducted by Kieso has an apparent qualitative character, the author uses a lot of quantitative data to support his arguments. However, the book is more of a panorama on the issue and, in many instances, reproduces existing knowledge.

The book appears to touch upon a serious issue for American society in the modern context. It sheds some light on the importance of critical analysis of the laws and the whole system of government. Because of this, one can identify the development of controversial bills, their causes, and the ways in which such laws are passed, which is an integral part of anyone’s civic identity. The value of this book, foremost, is that it has contributed to further research on the law, which sustains problematic traits of American society.

Conclusion

In conclusion, one last point has to be made: the laws are vital for any democratic society and should not be taken for granted. However, its undoubtful character is a myth, which in many cases should be questioned. As long as individuals are aware of this idea and try to live up to it, the chances that they will find themselves living in a healthy society are much higher. However, such outreach requires much work on the part of different social actors, as everybody has got some role to play in this complex process.

Reference

Kieso, D. W. (2005). Unjust sentencing and the California three strikes law. New York, NY: LFB Scholarly Pub.

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IvyPanda. ""Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes Law" by Kieso." June 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/unjust-sentencing-and-the-california-three-strikes-law-by-kieso/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes Law" by Kieso." June 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/unjust-sentencing-and-the-california-three-strikes-law-by-kieso/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) '"Unjust Sentencing and the California Three Strikes Law" by Kieso'. 8 June.

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