Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) proposed sweeping criminal justice reforms that she would implement if she is elected president in 2020.
When did she announce this?
In a Medium post on Monday, Harris promised that if elected she would “fundamentally transform how we approach public safety.”
But some of Harris’s opponents have criticized her for her track record as attorney general of California, accusing her of being too harsh on perpetrators. The proposal, however, (which had Harris’s byline but was written in the third person) said that her experience working in the criminal justice system “[f]rom the civil rights protests she attended as a child, to her time working inside the system as a prosecutor” gave her “the insight and the fight to fundamentally transform the system for the better.”
What are the proposals
Harris said that she would strive to “End Mass Incarceration and Invest Resources into Evidence and Community-Based Programs that Reduce Crime and Help Build Safe and Healthy Communities.”
She said she would do this by legalizing marijuana, initiating sentencing reforms, ending money bail (which she said unfairly allows wealthy people to post bail while keeping poorer prisoners locked up), clearing the rape kit backlog (more than 100,000 rape kits are sitting untested across the country), and ending private prisons.
She also proposed placing a sales tax on marijuana and using the money to provide “services to individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.” In addition to prosecuting cases of marijuana use as California’s attorney general, Harris opposed marijuana legalisation when she was a district attorney in San Francisco.
In a tweet thread on Monday, Harris said her “plan will transform our country’s broken criminal justice system by ending mass incarceration, holding law enforcement accountable, ensuring those in the system are given dignity, and getting profit out of the equation.”
During the second Democratic primary debate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (R-Hawaii) said she was “deeply concerned” with Harris’s record as a prosecutor, arguing that there were “too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so, she kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep the cash bail system in place. That impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”
In response, Harris said that as attorney general she “significantly” reformed “the criminal justice system” in California, and that she was “proud of that work.”
Tulsi Gabbard rips Kamala Harris’ record on criminal prosecutions