The Zodiac killer struck first. Then came the Manson family. Later, the Hillside Stranglers, the Night Stalker and the Golden State Killer terrorized California.
Starting in the late 1960s, one lurid murder after another fed public perceptions that crime in California was spiraling out of control. Gang shootings turned neighborhoods into combat zones. The crack epidemic ravaged communities.
Fear and outrage spawned a raft of harsh sentencing laws. California enacted one of its most punitive, “three strikes and you’re out,” after one parolee killed 18-year-old Kimber Reynolds of Fresno in 1992 and another kidnapped and killed 12-year-old Polly Klaas of Sonoma County a year later.
“We’re going to start turning career criminals into career inmates,” Republican Gov. Pete Wilson declared in 1994.
The laws strengthening criminal penalties drove a surge in the state’s prison population over 30 years, beginning in the 1970s. Under both Republicans and Democrats — including Kamala