ABSTRACT

In the mid-1990s a man in the United States gained extensive fame and attention: he was sentenced to life imprisonment for stealing a pizza. In fact, he had become one of the first and most notorious 'victims' of the State of California's 'Three Strikes and Out' legislation. These laws, which have swept across the United States, provide that two previous offences for sexual or violent offending followed by a third for a felony render the offender 'out' (using a baseball analogy) and thereby liable to mandatory terms ranging from 25 years to life imprisonment. However, such dramatic insistence on the punishment of persistence is currently by no means confined to the United States. Similar initiatives can be found across other English-based jurisdictions - for example, the Western Australia Crime (Serious and Repeat Offenders) Sentencing Act 1992. This was aimed at 'high risk juvenile offenders', and provided for the possibility of their indefinite detention: 'serious offences' were to include 'burglary, arson and stealing a motor vehicle aggravated by reckless or dangerous driving'; a 'repeat violent offender' is one appearing for sentence on his/her fourth 'conviction appearance' in 18 months for a listed violent offence or the seventh for a listed serious offence with the last being for one of the listed violent offences (including resisting or preventing arrest, various assault offences, wounding, robbery, sex offences and homicide) (Broadhurst and Loh 1993: 2 [emphasis added]).