During Wednesday’s Democratic debate, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris went after each other. Biden was better prepared this time. In fact, he had oppo research and invoked the Google search phrase, “1000 prisoners free, Kamala Harris.”
He wanted attention directed to articles about Harris’s quite conservative and possibly even corrupt criminal justice history as California Attorney General. There are some real damaging articles out there, including the two below. In particular, progressive outlets believe Harris’s past was far too aligned with Republicans than she’s comfortable acknowledging.
But there were other problems with her tenure as District Attorney. As SacBee notes, both Biden’s and Tulsi Gabbard‘s criticism were accurate:
Biden alluded to a crime lab scandal that involved her office and resulted in more than 1,000 drug cases being dismissed. Gabbard claimed Harris “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until she was forced to do so.”
Both of these statements are accurate.
Longtime San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi criticized Harris’s handling of the crime lab situation during a January interview with The Sacramento Bee in January.
Among the offenses, Harris is accused of trying to keep prisoners in jail for the sake of cheap labor. Seriously.
According to the DailyBeast:
“Extending 2-for-1 credits to all minimum custody inmates at this time would severely impact fire camp participation—a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought,” lawyers for Harris wrote in the filing, noting that the fire camp program required physical fitness in addition to a level of clearance that allowed the felon to be offsite.
Not only that, they noted, draining the prisons of “minimum custody inmates” would deplete the labor force both internally and in local communities where low-level, non-violent offenders worked for pennies on the dollar collecting trash and tending to city parks. A federal three-judge panel ordered both sides to confer about the plaintiffs’ demands, and the state agreed to extend the 2-for-1 credits to all eligible minimum security prisoners.
“Once we ridiculed and flagged them for that, they changed their tune, but that was their initial response,” Donald Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office and lead counsel on Brown v. Plata, said.
But one doesn’t need to read about her past to know she’s actively evading it. All one has to do is ask her about it and see her stumble horrifically. Lately, she’s learned to evade the question better, but it still gets her flustered when she’s called a “cop,” which Biden called her tonight.
The problem Harris faces is excusing her criminal justice past. To do this, she’ll point to two things: Her upbringing by parents who were social justice warriors and he current policies. But in-between the two crucial times in her life was an unambiguous history of siding against the very criminal justice reforms she’s now in favor of bringing to the White House.
According to progressive news outlet Vox:
But what seem like contradictions may reflect a balancing act. Harris’s parents worked on civil rights causes, and she came from a background well aware of the excesses of the criminal justice system — but in office, she had to play the role of a prosecutor and California’s lawyer. She started in an era when “tough on crime” politics were popular across party lines — but she rose to national prominence as criminal justice reform started to take off nationally. She had an eye on higher political office as support for criminal justice reform became de rigueur for Democrats — but she still had to work as California’s top law enforcement official.
It’s telling that Kamala Harris is so ashamed of her law-and-order past that she’s doing everything she can to pretend she’s always been a social justice warrior. This is, of course, fiction. She’s just a politician with great ambitions, nothing more.
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