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Prop 36 Approved By Overwhelming Majority, Allowing Thousands Chance To Appeal Life Sentence

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The passage of Proposition 36, which eases California’s three-strikes law, means hope for the Ward family.

Ramon Ward, 50, was convicted of a third strike for drinking a beer in public while under the influence of cocaine. He’s served 15 years of a life sentence.

“He can’t get home soon enough for me,” his mother Linda Ward said. “He was destroying his own self with drugs and alcohol, that’s all he was doing. He wasn’t hurting anybody else.”

One of his three felonies was committed as a minor. None were violent.

As a recovering drug addict, Ward worked construction for the city. His family says he relapsed before his third conviction.

“I knew that it was wrong, what happened to him,” Linda Ward said. “My son is not a violent person kind person.”

Ward’s family never stopped fighting the life sentence.

“We’ve been all over, Sacramento, we marched, everything we could,” Ward’s father Harold said.

Ward’s 16-year-old daughter spent that time wishing he could return home.

Her wish may come true.

In a historic move by voters, Proposition 36 was approved by more than two-thirds of voters Tuesday. The measure will ease the three-strikes law, which has been placing repeat offenders in prison for life, even for minor crimes.

Now, non-violent offenders like Ward have the chance to appeal for a new sentence or early release.

There are approximately 1,000 people in Los Angeles County who qualify, according to Geri Silva of Families Amend California Three Strikes.

“The criteria for someone to return to society is a third strike, non-violent serious offense and their priors did not include either murder, rape or child molestation,” Silva said.

Silva said that she tells families of third-strike offenders they need to be patient for the appeals process to play out as there will likely be a back log of cases.

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