California’s Three Strikes law began in 1994. Under this law, a person convicted of any new felony, while having a prior felony conviction, would be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. 

If the defendant was convicted of any felony with two or more prior strikes, the law mandated a state prison term of at least 25 years to life. The law was designed to be “tough on crime,” but in reality, it was tough on Black and Latino communities. 

African Americans make up the largest group of second and third strikers, followed by Latinos. According to a study by the Justice Policy Institute, Black people are disproportionately impacted by the three-strikes law. Although only 6.5% of California’s population is Black, 44.7% of inmates serving out sentences for third strikes are Black.

These are the statistics Allan McIntosh fell victim to in 1998. A previous robbery and theft conviction were his first two strikes. McIntosh was searched after being stopped by LBPD for riding his bike with a broken light and not using the crosswalk. McIntosh, who was living in a gang-infested community, had a weapon. That was his third strike and he was sentenced to 25 years to life on a non-violent charge. 

Luckily, McIntosh was a cellmate with Cesar McDowell who started Unite the People to help provide aid to people who were unjustly sentenced. With the help of McDowell and a documentary made about McIntosh’s life called Q-Ball, Allen McIntosh will be released from prison on Monday, June 27.  

On today’s episode of “The Word” podcast, Jackie Rae speaks with Unite the People Founder Cesar McDowell and Macintosh’s wife Daviena to discuss how they reached this point.

You can learn more about Unite the People here

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