The New York Sun’s liberal columnist Errol Louis makes a good point about “three-strikes” laws:

In 1997, [Santos] Reyes was caught at a Department of Motor Vehicles office in San Bernardino, using a cheat sheet to complete the written portion of a driver’s test.

At trial, where his limited English skills required the use of translator, Reyes freely admitted he was trying to help get a license for one of his cousins, who knows how to drive but is illiterate. What Reyes didn’t know–and what his court-appointed attorney apparently failed to explain–is that lying on a DMV application constitutes perjury.

Reyes was convicted of perjury, and the court found two prior strikes: a robbery committed 10 years earlier, and a burglary committed in 1981, when Reyes was a juvenile. He was duly sentenced to 26-to-life….

[A] heroin addict named Leandro Andrade [was sentenced] to prison for 50 years. The final two of that wretched thief’s three strikes occurred when he stole a few videotapes from a K-Mart, then returned two weeks later to shoplift another five tapes from the same store (estimated value: $84.70)….

[A] concerted political drive to make American law more conservative resulted in a one-vote majority in support of the view, advanced by Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, that “cruel and unusual” means only what the 18th-century framers of the Constitution would consider cruel and unusual

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