Michael J. Moore, filmmaker: There’s a lot of things that, a lot of influences that bear upon people’s impressions when they go and vote, how they understand what they’re voting on. And obviously one of the big ones is media.
In the two years prior to Three Strikes being enacted, there was a three hundred percent increase in the coverage of violent crime on network television news. You also had an explosion in real life crime shows, cop shows. So there was an impression that there was, that crime was exploding, it was out of control. In fact, during that period, that two-year period, crime dropped. But what most people carried with them to the polls was the sense that it was growing, that they had to do something, they needed to respond. And so I think that throughout the entire debate on Three Strikes, the impression that people were given about what they were voting on by the media was really at odds with reality.
I began shooting this film the day that Californians went to the polls to vote on Three Strikes, and it was already a law. In March it had become law. The Governor had signed a legislative version, and then voters were asked to ratify that through an initiative. And the thing that I guess in some ways I expected but still was surprised by was really how little people knew about the law. It’s a very simple sounding law, Three Strikes and You’re Out. It couldn’t be more easy on some levels to get, it’s a bumper sticker. On other levels, though, it’s an extremely complicated law.
One of the things I learned when I was a victim of violent crime, though, is that sometimes it helps to sit back and examine the situation, examine what is the risk, how did this happen, how did this happen what is the best way to respond. But with Three Strikes in California there was this absolute tidal wave coming both from the media and politicians to respond, and there was very little time allowed for people to deliberate how best to respond to their concerns.