Prior to becoming a presidential contender and California senator, Kamala Harris first gained fame as a district attorney and then attorney general in California and was viewed as a tough, no-nonsense prosecutor with no qualms about putting criminals in prison with high bail and lengthy sentences.
But that particular prosecutorial reputation has not served Harris well among the largely anti-cop base of the Democratic Party so far this primary season, a fact which has compelled Harris to do a complete about-face and issue a criminal justice reform plan that is the exact opposite of what she supposedly stood for in the past.
Harris’ criminal justice reform plan
Harris released her plan to “Transform the Criminal Justice System and Re-Envision Public Safety in America” on Monday, and it can only be described as a wide-reaching grab bag of reforms — some good and necessary, others terrible and counterproductive — that she would impose upon the country one way or another if elected president.
The plan mentions “four main levers” Harris can use to effectuate change: working with Congress or via executive action, launching investigations through the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, incentivizing changes at state and local level through federal grant funding, and using the bully pulpit of the presidency to advocate for change.
Likewise, the plan includes four “guiding principles” behind the proposed changes, namely, ending mass incarceration; holding law enforcement accountable to its communities; ensuring equitable and humane treatment for all in the justice system; and taking care to protect the “vulnerable” caught up in the system.
So many contradictions
The Washington Examiner conducted a detailed review of Harris’ plan and found that many aspects of her proposals stood in stark contrast to her actions as a prosecutor.
Chief among the contradictions is Harris’ call to “end mass incarceration” and reduce the prison population, largely by way of ending the “war on drugs” and legalizing marijuana, keeping women convicted of non-violent offenses out of jail, ending mandatory minimum sentences and increasing the use of clemency, and creating an independent commission to review lengthy sentences after a set time.
But the Examiner noted that, as a prosecutor, Harris bragged in 2008 about how she had tripled the number of misdemeanor cases taken to trial — many of those on minor drug possession charges — and that she believed that a crackdown on all levels of crime was necessary to protect the public and prevent more serious offenses from happening by putting criminals in prison.
As for Harris’ plan for increased accountability for police, the candidate called for strict limits on the use of deadly force, creating a National Police Systems Review Board akin to the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate alleged misconduct and shootings, using the DOJ to crack down on local police departments, and, among other things, funding body cameras for every officer nationwide.
However, as a prosecutor, Harris opposed a “one-size-fits-all” solution to the question of body cameras and left it up to individual departments to decide whether to use them or not.
Pandering to the party base
Harris also called for an end to money bail in her plan, but during her tenure as a prosecutor, she encouraged courts to set bails even higher to keep criminals off the streets. Her plan also advocates for a crackdown on prosecutors’ offices and increased funding for public defenders, a move that stabs her former fellow law enforcement officials in the back.
A plethora of other proposals can be found in Harris’ plan — again, some good, most bad — but it is obvious that her campaign is really attempting to push back against the dismissive “she’s a cop” narrative that is hurting her with her own party’s far-left base. Declaring war on police departments and prosecutors and upending the criminal justice system as we know it appears to be her latest attempt to pander to that base.
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