In 2012, California voters passed Proposition 36 to amend the draconian three strikes law. Proposition 36 allows inmates who received unfair life sentences under three strikes to petition the court to have their sentence modified to a second strike sentence.
But not all inmates have gotten the benefit of Proposition 36's amendment to California three strikes law. One of these inmates is Timothy James Rodriguez, who was denied Proposition 36 benefits by a prosecutor and judge in Madera County. Mr. Rodriguez was given a life sentence in 2000 under California's three strikes law for possession of heroin for sale. He applied for re-sentencing in 2012 under Proposition 36, but in People v. Rodriguez the prosecutor opposed Mr. Rodriguez' application for resentencing because he argued that Mr. Rodriguez' earlier life of mostly petty and nonviolent and drug-related crimes rendered him a "danger to public safety."
Never mind that Mr. Rodriguez -- who was 59 years old when he applied for re-sentencing -- had done everything within his power to avail himself of rehabilitative services within prison and by all indications he was a shining example of redemption. He had gotten ZERO disciplinary violations during his last 13 years in prison and ZERO "write-ups." He obtained his GED. He held down a job as a prison porter and teacher's aid. He was involved in the Lifers Group, Narcotics Anonymous and a Victim Awareness Offenders Program. He wanted to become a truck driver.
But none of that mattered to the prosecutor and judge, who used their "discretion" to thwart a man's hard-fought efforts to change and well-deserved dreams of a second chance. One judge on the appellate court sided with Mr. Rodriguez, but although his lone dissent highlights the unfairness of the situation it cannot give Mr. Rodriguez his second chance at freedom and a productive life outside.