Three Strikes and You're Out: Is It a Good Idea?

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NBC Today Show
Katie Couric
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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Senator Joseph Biden discusses the need for comprehensive crime control and what sort of criminals the "three strikes and you're out" policy should and should not target.



"Three Strikes and You're Out: Is It a Good Idea?" Katie Couric, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 1 Feb. 1994. NBC Learn. Web. 10 January 2020.


Couric, K. (Reporter). (1994, February 1). Three Strikes and You're Out: Is It a Good Idea? [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Three Strikes and You're Out: Is It a Good Idea?" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 02/01/1994. Accessed Fri Jan 10 2020 from NBC Learn:


Three Strikes and You're Out: Is It a Good Idea?

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

On Close Up this morning, `three strikes and you're out' for violent criminals.

President BILL CLINTON: Those who commit crimes should be punished. And those who commit repeated violent crimes should be told, `When you commit a third violent crime, you will be put away, and put away for good. Three strikes and you are out!'

COURIC: That provision is contained in a Senate-passed crime bill, and Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware was the prime mover behind it. This morning, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is in Wilmington, Delaware.

Senator Biden, good morning.

Senator JOE BIDEN: Good morning, Katie.

COURIC: You're quoted in--in the recent issue of Time magazine as saying this whole idea of three strikes and you're out is wacko. I understand you've had a change of heart. Why?

Sen. BIDEN: No, I haven't had no change of heart. The context of that question that was asked is, `Did I like some of the provisions that were passed?' There were two provisions passed in the crime bill that said if there were non-violent crimes, in three strikes you'd be out. In the--the--what I support is a three strikes and you're out, if in fact, they're very violent crimes--arson, rape, murder, manslaughter. Three strikes in those areas, and you should be out. Six percent of the most violent felons in America commit the vast majority of the crimes in America, and we should put those people away for life.

COURIC: Do you think in some cases too wide a net is being cast...

Sen. BIDEN: Absolutely.

COURIC: ...and too many crimes are being included?

Sen. BIDEN: Absolutely, positively.

There's a--there--there's a referendum that's being sought on the California ballot by a gentleman named Mr. Reynolds. Now, he has a three strikes and you're out provision, which makes sense. It's very narrowly drawn, it says that--if defines what violent crimes are, it says it's violent crimes against persons, they're all crimes that carry heavy sentences with them.

But what you don't want to do is have three strikes and you're out when a 17-year-old kid snatches a purse, and pushes someone down, and then steals a car and the next thing gets in a barroom brawl and ends up in, you know, in an assault and battery. There's three strikes, you shouldn't be out for that. So, what we should focus on are three strikes, meaning serious felonies against a person that are violent. We should take those predators off the street. But the truth of the thing--the matter, Katie, is, if we do that federally, even if we pass the laws that are in the crime bill, like the Lott Amendment, which I supported, under the federal sentencing commission guidelines, we asked them, `How many people would that put in jail for life under the federal system?' And the answer was 290, only 290. And there's over 5-1/2 million felonies committed a year.

COURIC: So you're telling me on the federal level this really won't have much of an impact?

Sen. BIDEN: It won't have much of an impact because...

COURIC: So, why do it?

Sen. BIDEN: Well, because it still makes sense to take 290 predators off the street. The reason why it won't make much impact on the federal level, is we don't have jurisdiction over the state level crime that isn't a federal crime. We can't federalize all crime. We don't have a national police force.

COURIC: So, in fact, this three strikes on the federal level will only take place or only effect criminals who commit crimes on federal property?

Sen. BIDEN: Well, or the way it's defined is, if one of those crimes is on federal property or one of those is a federal crime. So you--you can provide a nexus that brings people into the net. But my--my problem with focusing at a federal level on--on talking only about--we should be--now, I'm not criticizing you, but the debate should be about whether or not they want the 100,000 cops I put in the Biden bill, whether they want to spend $6 billion for prisons to put violent prisoners, which is in the Biden bill, which--all the provisions in the bill...

COURIC: Mm-hmm.

Sen. BIDEN: ...which really mean something, this in terms of the effect on people's safety...

COURIC: Right.

Sen. BIDEN: going to be minuscule at a federal level.