The senator and presidential candidate just released a laundry list of criminal justice reforms she intends to oversee like legalizing pot, abolishing mandatory minimum sentences, and ending private prisons.
Remember that one week back in July when Kamala Harris was surging in the polls and looking like the potential Biden-beater? She does, and she’d like to get that mojo back, as the latest polls show her back down in the single-digit range. So Harris is touting her new criminal justice reform plan, carefully rolled out just today with a detailed Medium post and a New York Times interview, the timing of which is surely not a coincidence.
Vox, of course, already has an explainer of Harris’ plan, but the long and the short of it is this: She wants to federally legalize marijuana, end cash bail and mandatory minimum sentences, abolish private prisons, and establish a Bureau of Children and Family Justice.
“I know the system from the inside out,” Harris told the Times in her interview. “So trust me when I say we have a problem with mass incarceration in America. Trust me when I say we have a problem with accountability. Trust me when I say we have to take the profit out of criminal justice.”
The obvious criticism here is that Harris opposed several of these same measures as San Francisco's district attorney and as attorney general of California. She pushed for cash bail increases for suspects with gun charges as our DA in 2004 (flip-flopping twice in one week on cash bail as state AG), was flat-out against recreational marijuana as recently as 2010, and her new platform contains a call for independent review of police shootings, which she’d previously opposed.
When called on these reversals, Harris maintains the ‘progress prosecutor’ argument. “I was swimming against the current, and thankfully the currents have changed,” she said to the Times. “The winds are in our sails. And I’m riding that just like everybody else is — because it’s long overdue.”
That’s a fairly slick dodge of the question, but her flip-flops are probably not her real problem here. This plan seems unlikely to juice her polling numbers, mainly because these are pretty boilerplate Democratic platform positions that several other candidates have already staked out. Biden, Bernie, Warren, Booker, and Klobuchar have all released criminal justice reform plans that more or less line up with Harris'. Wonky plans are probably not going to get her back in this thing, but she does have another debate this Thursday in which, finally, all the main candidates will be on the stage at the same time.
Image: Mobilus In Mobili via Flickr