Senator Kamala Harris of California released her criminal justice reform plan last Monday on her campaign website. Falling right into what Democrats want to hear, her plan is a hopeful copy-and-paste of what many Americans desire. It is comprehensive and too good to be something she may accomplish for those suffering in the justice system.
Harris’ reform focuses on ending mass incarceration, investing in programs to reduce crime and build safe communities, and improving law enforcement. This will lead to the humane treatment of individuals and the protection of vulnerable people. It’s a tall order for a former district attorney who once took pride over the tripling number of misdemeanors her office took to trial within five years.
“While I sympathize that caseloads have increased for the courts and other criminal justice agencies, including my own office, I make no apologies for the aggressive handling of criminal cases by the district attorney’s office,” said Harris in a letter to the editor of The Recorder. “Misdemeanor crimes erode our quality of life and are often a gateway to more serious offenses that jeopardize public safety.”
Harris’ history as a prosecutor and district attorney show a different picture from what her reform proposes, and that is one of the weakest points in her campaign. But she turns away from aggression towards her soft side with this criminal justice reform.
Her plan begins with the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act. This will legalize marijuana, remove it from the Controlled Substance Act, and either expunge or re-sentence convictions. The sales tax on marijuana and marijuana products would create three grant programs. One would provide job training, re-entry services, and legal aid to those impacted by the War on Drugs. The second would provide funds through loans for small marijuana business owners. The third would provide funds that will minimize barriers for marijuana licensing and employment. It is exactly what many in the public want to hear, and what better time to change one’s justice position than when they are running for President.
The reform dives deep into correcting the policing system so that law enforcement instills trust and accountability. Harris’ plan begins but is not limited to supporting a national standard for officers to use deadly force only when authorized as a last resort and creating a National Police Systems Review Board. Her ideas on improving the policing system are influenced by The Camden Police Department where Chief Scott Thomson has instituted a progressive model for force policies. It focuses on de-escalating events before officers use an appropriate amount of force. Harris plans on working with Congress to create a National Police Systems Review Board. It would collect data, review police shootings and other misconduct cases.
“It is the civil rights issue of our time, and there is perhaps no one more uniquely suited to taking on this issue than Kamala Harris,” stated on Harris’ criminal justice reform. “Kamala has seen firsthand the fundamental flaws of the system.”
Kamala Harris has a lot of experience seeing firsthand the flaws of our judicial system. Whether she has been on the same side throughout her history is a different picture than what her proposed plan shows. Her reform is so detailed and expansive that it’s the right amount of written hope Harris can provide in an attempt to distract from her prosecutor record.
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