Kamala Harris’ Despotic Criminal Justice Record

Charlie Gers


The past two years have been nothing short of extreme divisiveness and hyper-partisanship in the United States which resulted in the longest government shut down in history. Our elected officials refused to compromise on issues and gave up their principles to satisfy party leaders, focusing to vote in favor of candidates with a specific letter next to their name regardless of their record or vision. This is precisely the fear that George Washington emphasized in his historic Farewell Address of 1796, stating, “However [political parties] combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to be- come potent engines by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” 

As the 2020 election comes closer, a few contestants from the Democratic Party have already placed their presidential bid in an effort to avoid succumbing to a second Trump administration. After taking control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats are eager to take back control of the White House. There are currently nine Democrats in the race, including prominent leaders like Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, and Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris is seen as the heroic, virtuous character needed to save the country from evil by many progressives; however, her record proves otherwise, especially for those who ardently advocate for criminal justice reform. 

Criminal justice reform is thankfully no longer a partisan issue. Leaders from all sides of the political aisle have finally realized that the current state of the criminal justice system is unacceptable. The “land of the free” is also the land that leads the world in mass incarceration, containing nearly 25% of the world’s prison population yet only about 5% of the global population. On December 21st, President Trump signed the #FirstStepAct into law, an astonishing step forward towards fixing a pernicious system that shatters families, communities, and individuals’ lives for nonviolent offenses. Co-sponsors from all across the country and parties, such as Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Angus King (I-Vermont), who formed a coalition to pass a bill that includes significant sentencing reform provisions, shortening ludicrously long federal prison sentencing and enacting vocational and rehabilitative programs for inmates to reduce the chances of inmates committing crimes again. 

On December 17th, Kamala Harris, one of the two current Senators from California, issued a statement saying, “For years, we’ve been offered a false choice on criminal justice policy. It’s a choice that suggests we are either ‘soft’ on crime or ‘tough’ on crime instead of asking: ‘Are we smart on crime?’ Americans deserve a criminal justice system that is both fair and smart. By passing the FIRST STEP Act, we can make our criminal justice system smarter.”

It’s easy to assume that Harris is and has been a champion for criminal justice reform, a pioneer of a movement that is finally reaping its benefits. However, her record as a prosecutor, district attorney, and state attorney in California portrays her as an artifact of the “tough on crime” policies that staggered the fabric of American families, especially lower-income and African-American families. 

Harris served as the 32nd Attorney General of California from 2011 to 2017 and as District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011. In an article published by Lara Bazelon in the New York Times, “Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.”  In 2014, she refused to take a position on Proposition 47, a ballot initiative passed by California voters to reduce certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors. That same year, she laughed during an interview when she was asked if she supported marijuana legalization and also urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court decision invalidating the state’s death penalty.

One of the victims under Harris’ vile tenure as an attorney was Daniel Larsen, a man who served 13 years of a 27-years-to-life prison sentence for a crime that he didn’t commit. Larsen was convicted in 1999 of possession of a concealed weapon after two police officers claimed they saw him throw a knife below a car in the parking lot of a bar. However, prior to his release, Attorney General Kamala Harris questioned the release, claiming he hadn’t presented enough evidence for his innocence. Time and time, Harris refused to take a stand and defend on the side of justice for those wrongfully accused. 

Her draconian record in California is certainly questionable and something worth emphasizing as she enters the presidential race. Of course, as culture and society changes, it is normal for politicians to change their views on certain issues (as we have seen many GOP leaders shift towards more pro-LGBT laws); but reminiscing on her past is fundamental to challenge her bid and ensure that our nation can continue proceeding towards a more humane, compassionate, and effective system.