Harris Would 'End Mass Incarceration,' End War on Drugs, and 'Reform the Policing System'

By Susan Jones | September 9, 2019 | 8:55am EDT
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) outlined her criminal justice reform plan, which is massive and far-reaching. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), one of many Democrats running for president, on Monday outlined her lengthy plan to "transform the criminal justice system and re-envision public safety in America."

She calls criminal justice reform "the civil rights issue of our time."

In a nutshell, she wants to:

(1) End mass incarceration and invest in evidence and community-based programs that reduce crime and build safe and healthy communities;

(2) Instill trust in law enforcement and make police accountable to the communities they serve;

(3) Create a system that treats individuals "equitably and humanely'

(4) Protect vulnerable people

In a post at Medium.com, Harris goes into great detail on each point.

On point one, ending mass incarceration, Harris says she'd make "significant federal investments" in policies such as job training, housing, transportation, food security, education, and medical and mental health care.

She would "end the war on drugs," because, as she notes, one-fifth of prisoners are behind bars for a drug charge. "So it is past time to end the failed war on drugs, and it begins with legalizing marijuana," she wrote.

She would also "expunge" marijuana convictions and provide states with funds "to make loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned by socially and economically advantaged individuals."

She would end mandatory minimum sentences at the federal level and incentivize states to do the same.

Harris is calling for a commission to study the best ways to hold violent offenders accountable and prevent them from re-offending. She says "excessively long sentences" do not prevent recidivism.

She would end the use of private prisons -- and private detention centers for undocumented immigrants.

She would create a "Bureau of Children and Family Justice" to support community services and fix the broken foster care system.

She wants to end juvenile incarceration in favor of "restorative justice programs," except for the most serious crimes.

She would end the transfer of children to adult prisons; end solitary confinement for children; invest money in states to stop criminal charges for school-based disciplinary behavior; and hold schools accountable for discriminatory practices in suspensions and expulsions.

She would restore voting rights, housing rights, student loans, SNAP, and professional work licenses for everyone who has served his or her sentence.

The death penalty would be abolished. So would end solitary confinement in prisons.

On point two -- law enforcement -- Harris wants to reform the policing system.

She would:

-- Support a national standard for use of deadly force to only when “necessary” and when no reasonable alternatives, such as "de-escalation," are available.

-- Create a National Police Systems Review Board, which would collect data and review police shootings and other cases of misconduct and issue recommendations and implement safety standards based on evidence revealed in these reviews.

-- Allocate resources to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (OJP), to incentivize state agencies to conduct independent investigations of officer-involved shootings.

-- Double the size of DOJ Civil Rights Division and give it subpoena power for "pattern and practice" investigations.

-- De-militarize police departments. Harris says she would reinstate President Obama’s executive order, which prohibited sales of certain military equipment and training to police.

-- Make sure technology, such as facial recognition, "does not further racial disparities or other biases."

On point 3, Harris would "stop criminalizing poverty" by ending cash bail and ending the use of fines and fees "that criminalize the poor." She would provide parenting classes for prisoners who are primary caretaker parents; and institute a pilot program to allow overnight visits from family members.

And finally, on point 4, Harris would spend $1 billion to allow states to end the rape-kit backlogs.

The plan is very long, and you can read the entire thing here:

“My entire career has been spent making needed reforms and fighting for those who too often are voiceless — from young people arrested for the first time and getting them jobs instead of jail, to grieving black mothers who wanted justice for their child’s murder as the system ignored their pain,” Harris wrote in a statement accompanying her plan.

“This plan uses my experience and unique capability to root out failures within the justice system … As president I’ll fix this broken system to make it fairer and more accountable for communities across the country.”


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