Three Strikes Now-What the three strikers think

Aug 1, 2014 5:59 PM by Brian Johnson

Susanville's High Desert State Prison is one of 35 state prisons in California.

It holds around 3,600 inmates, and a little under one percent of those inmates are Three Strikers, inmates who have been put away for life for committing three felonies.
It's three strikes and you're out.

And Kenneth elder struck out looking.
He went down looking at the gun he said wasn't his, but put him away for life.

"Somebody had a weapon, and I was around them as an ex-felon, so that's why I'm in jail," Elder said.

That was 20 years ago.

Elder, now 47, said he was one of the first to be affected by California's new Three Strikes law when he went in at 27.

That was three months after the law was passed.
The law says three felonies, and you're in for 25 to life.
Elder said his first two felonies were residential robberies, but the third gets a little murkier.

"It's like I was over at your house and you had a weapon but you didn't have it in a secure place, and I was over there and they found your weapon and by me being on parole, that's how I was charged, saying I had access to it," Elder explained.

Elder had never heard of "constructive possession."
He hadn't heard of Three Strikes either.

"I'm sitting here for something that I didn't even do," said Elder. "Wasn't my case, no crime, I committed no crime. I did nothing to be right here, so how's that fair?"

Fairness is at the root of the controversy surrounding Three Strikes.

Elder tells us he was made out to look like Richard Allen Davis, Polly Klaas' killer. Or at least he believes he received the same punishment as him.

"He raped and murdered somebody, I was just around somebody with a weapon, so how can we be in the same situation?" Elder said.

Elder said he's never hurt anybody, but he's hurting to see his five kids again.

But he said they keep him going, and he has no other choice but to be patient.

Elder is a man who generally likes to keep to himself, but he does have a friend to the cell next to him, and their Three Strike stories couldn't be more similar
Meet 35-year-old Teddest McKinney, originally of Long Beach.

"I'm up in age but I'm kind of fast," McKinney said.
A self-proclaimed athlete, he said he traded a life in football, for a life in gangs.

So instead of catching passes, he started catching charges.
There were robberies, stealing cars, and in 2009, strike three.

"I was in the car, there was three people in the car-I'm getting a ride from a person, they pull the car over, find a gun, I'm on parole, and they three strike me," McKinney said.

Like Elder, McKinney hadn't heard of three strikes, but said he hit the law library and found out he met the criteria.
Proposition 36 brought him back to the law library, when his lawyer told him he was eligible for re-sentencing under the amendment to the law.
Like Elder, McKinney said he doesn't accept where he is at HDSP.

"This is my second time in prison but this is not cool, this is not cool. There's no word for it, it's just not cool," McKinney said.

And like Elder, McKinney said he's patiently waiting for another chance.
But many would argue that is more than enough chances.

"We're just being patient and waiting, because we know the law is unjust," Elder said. "And I'm pretty sure people that's on the street know it's unjust too. That's why they passed Prop 36, but they need it to go farther than that."
"I'm not angry at anybody, I don't blame nobody," Elder said. "I just wanted to be treated fair, that's all. I wasn't treated fair, so I have to live with it. I don't hate nobody I'm not mad. I just want the opportunity to go home."

Action News Now confirmed that, as of July 25th, Elder has had his petition for re-sentencing under Prop 36 denied.


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