California man gets eight years for stealing cheese
Robert Ferguson was sentenced under the ‘three strikes’ law, as critics again plea for reform of state’s overcrowded prisons

A California man has been sentenced to up to eight years in prison for stealing a $3.99 (£2.60) bag of shredded cheese in a case critics say shows the need for reform of the state’s criminal justice system and the overcrowded state of its prisons.

Robert Ferguson, who prosecutors say has a nearly 30-year record of convictions for burglary and other offences, avoided a life sentence under the state’s controversial “three strikes” law after a psychological evaluation deemed him bipolar and unable to control his impulses to steal, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Prosecutor Clinton Parish said Ferguson had spent 22 of the past 27 years behind bars but had failed to show he could obey the law. A judge sentenced him to seven years and eight months in prison, but he could be eligible for parole in three years.

The ruling came amid critical overcrowding in the California prison system, to which years of tough policies, the “war on drugs” and one of the highest US recidivism rates have contributed. The system held 166,569 inmates in August, but remains so overcrowded nearly 8,000 have been sent to prisons outside the state.

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