Critics Hit Kamala Harris for Newfound Desire for Cash Bail Reform | NTK Network Critics Hit Kamala Harris for Newfound Desire for Cash Bail Reform

Critics Hit Kamala Harris for Newfound Desire for Cash Bail Reform

Critics say Harris was “absent” on this issue during her seven years as district attorney and six years as attorney general.

By NTK Staff | 04.01.2019 @12:30pm
Critics Hit Kamala Harris for Newfound Desire for Cash Bail Reform

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) wants her career to be viewed as one of a “progressive prosecutor” – someone who understood and took into account perpetrators’ circumstances and acted justly on behalf of the people she served.

In fact, she wants her career to be viewed that way so much so that she penned a chapter in her recent book that gave herself the title, “progressive prosecutor.”

Critics spoke out then, arguing Harris deserves no such title, and they’re doing so again, this time on the issue of cash bail reform.

Within months of Harris being sworn-in as a U.S. Senator, she sponsored a bill “urging states to eliminate cash bail, denouncing the system as a scourge on the poor and communities of color.” It became part of her criminal justice reform platform.

The only problem? It was an issue that reform advocates wanted her to take for years. Had she done so as district attorney or attorney general, she could have had a serious impact in California. Instead, she ducked the issue until she was no longer in a position to directly impact those affected:

In her seven years as a district attorney, and then six as attorney general, Harris was absent on the issue, they say. In fact, less than a year earlier, her office defended the cash bail system in a pair of federal court cases, shifting course only weeks before she entered the Senate.

“For her entire career she used some of the highest money bail amounts to keep people in jail cells and saddle poor families with financial debt,” said Alec Karakatsanis, an attorney who has brought several legal challenges to California’s bail system, “and as soon as she had no influence on that issue practically, she announces she has a different view on it.”

Instead of taking a bold step on this issue when she had the chance, Harris opted for the safe, careful approach. Not surprisingly, those critics believe Harris’s positions are opportunistic. Wanting to appear tough on crime during her tenure as California’s top law enforcement officer, Harris did nothing on bail reform as attorney general. Now running for president, Harris is hoping to win over progressives who want to see systemic changes to the criminal justice system.

Harris’s defense? As attorney general, she was tasked with enforcing the law, not making new policy. But that doesn’t explain why Harris routinely fought for high bail amounts, as Karakatsanis said.

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