Three-Strikes Reform Bill Dies Even Though Sponsor Says He Had the Votes

Adam Kline.jpg
With King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg behind him, Sen. Adam Kline seemed to finally have a chance this year at reforming the state's three-strikes law. But Kline (pictured at right) tells SW that his bill, which would have allowed the least serious offenders to apply for parole after 15 years in prison, died quietly earlier this month. The Senate's Democratic leadership refused to bring it to a vote.

What's particularly irksome for Kline is that, by his count, he had the votes to pass the bill. "I got to 27," says the Seattle Democrat, and those supporters included a few Republicans.

Also backing the bill was the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, adds Satterberg. Even conservative commentator and original three-strikes crusader John Carlson said he would support the bill if it was revised to exclude second-degree assault convicts. The bill was changed accordingly.

That meant, according to Satterberg, that the bill "would have only applied to 10 offenders--out of more than 320." All of those who could possibly catch a break had to have been convicted exclusively of so-called Class B felonies, like the purse-snatchings that have sent away some three-strikers for life.

It was, in truth, a very mild form of reform, as Satterberg recognizes. "Before three strikes, these offenders faced a 15-month standard-range [sentence]. This would have required 15 years, so it is hardly soft on crime," he says.

Sounding pissed, he continues that it is therefore "a little perplexing why Senate leadership would not allow this to come to the floor."

SW speculated in January that the murder of a Monroe prison guard by a three-striker might doom the bill, and Kline says the killing might have had an impact. Mainly, though, he says that the Senate's leadership didn't want to spend the time on the tirades from ultra-conservative senators that the bill would inevitably provoke. "We're going to spend an hour on it," he says he was told.

And there you have it. In the world of the legislature, 60 minutes is forever, even to consider the fate of people who really are dealing with forever--in prison. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown has not yet returned a phone call seeking comment.

Kline, never tiring of tilting at windmills, says he intends to reintroduce the bill next year.

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