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UPDATE: John Carlson says he opposes the new bill because it would offer a way out for people who commit second degree assault, which he

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The "Three-Strikes" Law Faces a Reform Effort That Might Actually Have a Chance

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UPDATE: John Carlson says he opposes the new bill because it would offer a way out for people who commit second degree assault, which he calls "a very brutal crime."

There's hardly been a legislative season in recent years in which Sen. Adam Kline has failed to introduce a bill proposing reform of the state's draconian "three strikes" law. This year is no exception. But whereas Kline has faced fatal opposition every year from the lock-'em-up crowd, this year may be different.

That's because the bill itself is "fundamentally different from all previous proposals," according to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. In the past, Kline has attempted to remove nonviolent offenses and minor assaults from the list of crimes that count as a strike--three of which send a convict to prison for life without the possibility of parole. "That would immediately release about a third of the inmates"--some 100 prisoners convicted under three strikes--"without any sort of supervision," Satterberg says.

In this year's bill, those offenses still count as a strike of sorts. But if defendants are convicted of three so-called Class B felonies, they would have a chance at parole after 15 years. Only if the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board kept turning them down would they serve a life sentence.

The bill would affect only 16 current inmates, according to Satterberg, because all of convicts' strikes must be Class B felonies in order for them to be eligible for parole.

There's another thing that makes this year's bill different: Stevan Dozier will be testifying on behalf of it.

Dozier (pictured above) has become the poster child for three-strikes reform. Convicted of a series of purse snatchings, he began serving a life sentence as mandated by the law. But in May 2009, having served 15 years in jail, he received clemency at the urging of Satterberg, who has been on a crusade to correct what he sees as unduly harsh punishments meted out by the law.

In his first interview since his release, Dozier tells Seattle Weekly that he has been working with juvenile offenders since becoming a free man. He is employed full-time by a nonprofit called Therapeutic Health Services, which attempts to get troubled kids back in school and connect them with jobs, drug treatment, and other social services.

"The kids respect him," says Debra Baker, Dozier's supervisor.

Dozier, who lives in the Central Area, says he also helps out his wife's janitorial service and takes classes at Seattle Central Community College in business and chemical-dependency treatment. "Dozier is doing everything you would hope an ex-offender would do," Satterberg says.

The onetime lifer also seems to have a keen political sense. He sees it as a hopeful sign that a co-sponsor of the newest three-strikes reform bill is Sen. James Hargrove of Hoquiam, a far more conservative Democrat than Seattle liberal Kline. But, he says, "I'm really interested in how this plays out with John Carlson."

Carlson was a leader behind the drive to enact three strikes, but has shown selective mercy. The conservative talk-show host met with Dozier in prison and ended up testifying on behalf of his clemency.

 
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