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Commentary

LA Times Op-Ed: Polly Klaas was our sister. We don’t want unjust laws to be her legacy

[latimes.com – 10/18/20]

To many people, the face of Polly Klaas is a reminder of a horrific moment in our nation’s history. For us — her sisters — Polly’s face represents a constellation of childhood memories that remain precious to us today. Those memories ended abruptly on Oct. 1, 1993, when a man followed Polly home from the park and took her from our bedroom.

To us, the trauma of Polly’s death was made all the more confusing and frightening by the media frenzy surrounding it. As children, we retreated from the public eye, hoping to heal and reclaim some sense of normalcy in our lives. As we grew older, however, we became aware of some of the legal and political changes that stemmed from Polly’s death. Galvanized by the fear felt by families and communities across the country, legislators began pushing for harsh sentencing laws.

The new laws were strongly supported by people across the political spectrum and by a prominent voice in our own family. The best known of the mandatory sentencing enhancement laws came to be known as “three strikes,” which aimed to keep people in prison for life after a third conviction for a serious offense.

Ostensibly, these laws were meant to prevent tragedies like our sister’s murder from being repeated. Yet many of the people who ended up with life sentences under three-strikes laws were convicted of nonviolent crimes — things such as stealing a bicycle, attempting to forge a check, breaking a church window or using drugs. The laws produced a misguided sentencing system benefiting the prison industry, whose survival depends on large numbers of incarcerated people serving extended sentences.

People imprisoned under three-strikes and other mandatory sentencing laws are overwhelmingly Black and Latino, and they are also often mentally ill or homeless. Over the last 26 years, three-strikes laws have significantly contributed to mass incarceration in the United States and have exacerbated the systemic racism inherent in our justice system.

Read the full article

 

Join the discussion

  1. James I

    Well this is a breath of fresh air! Such humane and intelligent view in the face of (unjustified) vengeance.

    Good on these good sisters.

    James I

  2. G4Change

    This is mind blowing considering that Polly’s dad, Mark Klaas, seems to be on a mission to destroy the lives of registered citizens. I commend these women for standing up to Mark Klaas’ bullying vendetta against us and the many people who are third strikers who shouldn’t still be in prison. I can’t begin to imagine the pain they have suffered upon losing their sister the way they did. And despite this pain, it is a blessing that they can see the difference between people like Richard Allen Davis, Phillip Garrido, etc. and the 99.5% of the rest of us who screwed up, faced the music, and just want to live our lives in peace. These young ladies join the ranks of other survivors of victims like Patty Wetterling who are smart enough and brave enough to realize and point out that enough is enough!!!

  3. Bluewall

    All hot air till I see them actively dismantle what they built up through misinformation and fear

    • Tax Dollars

      Anyone brave enough to publicly call out the prison industry and allies for fear mongering has my vote of confidence. Going further to advocate for rehabilitation over prison because that works better is very wise. I am overwhelmed that the sisters are so fair-minded. I have a renewed sense of hope. The thing I also described is violence, force or fear which are stigmatized terms often with little to support them and many without even an injury. At the end of the day 290 registration was created by fears but who will outlaw 290 registration.

  4. AERO1

    California’s 3 strike law is no joke i had a friend who got in some trouble back in the day when he was 18 he ended up receiving 2 felony conviction and was sentenced to five years in prison he did his time came home in 2004 and truly was a productive member of society for the last 16 years.
    About 6 months ago he was in a domestic dispute with his wife they were yelling and screaming at each outher all day and night eventually it ended up getting a little physical and the cops were called and my friend was arrested.
    While he was sitting in the county jail he called his wife and mother to bail him out to their surprise his bail was extremely high not knowing why someone evolved in domestic violence would have such a high bail they look to see what his charges were and boom there it was on top of his domestic violence change the state of California hit him with 2 extra charges of 667(A)pc the 3 strike law I couldn’t believe it He ended up receiving a mandatory 25 to life without the possibility of parole.

    Good luck

  5. wonderin

    A nice read! Apparently their father, like most of us, is not all bad and a great father to have raised such fine daughters to allow them to think for themselves.

    • Dustin

      I beg to differ. Are they “fine daughters” that think for themselves because of him or despite him? A lot of good people became so despite being raised by some demonstrably terrible parents.

      The opinions expressed in their column are probably not new, I would think have been held for quite time, and apparently haven’t persuaded their father all that much. His advocacy against registrants doesn’t appear to have diminished, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a source of dissension between them.

      • Wonderin

        “Are they “fine daughters” that think for themselves because of him or despite him?

        One of us might be right, but who?

  6. totally against public registry

    Wow! If these sisters can forgive and are trying to fix this criminal justice system, then all communities should take their example to heart and try to defeat people and laws that are standing in the way of reform/rehabilitation.

  7. Tim in WI

    Apparently the Klasskids aren’t the only group pointing out the the fact that they feel used by gov’t victimites.
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/opinions-the-gross-injustice-of-habitual-offender-laws/ar-BB1alfyY?ocid=AMZN

    Patty Whetterling has herself commented on the misuse of her loss of a child committed by a murderer. Our nation’s media really feeds of stories like the Klass’s, Tibits’ , Smart’s, etc etc etc. But to what end?
    IMO, our media approach in reporting these tragedies has a demoralizing effect upon the people. Long run implications of for profit choices resulted in a serious detrimental effect upon the body whole.

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