Kamala Harris for President?

What is the main point of the article? To provoke critical thinking discourse around Kamala Harris in light of her announcement to run for President.

Kamala Harris is running for President. Question? or exclamation mark!

Following her MLK Jr. day announcement she was met with equal applause and criticism. Most notably the New York Times responded with dissatisfaction, publishing a dissenting op-ed from Lara Bazelon, a law professor from Loyola Law School. The op-ed was titled, Kamala Harris Was Not Progressive Prosecutor.

Bazelon writes that regarding opportunities to make crucial criminal justice reforms in California as San Francisco’s district attorney and California attorney general, Harris consistently stood on the wrong side of history.

Bazelon gets more specific with the Congresswoman’s record reporting that Harris withheld information about a police lab technician who was accused of sabotaging her work to aid in the convictions for nearly 600 innocent people. In 2010 it was determined that Harris was aware of evidence proving intentional sabotage but she failed to share this information with defense attorneys and the judge. Detail about the police lab scandal can be found here:

Bazelon continues to critique Harris for supporting California state legislation to prosecute parents of truant elementary school children despite her awareness that such demographic centered prosecutions are criminalizing poverty.

In 2014 a federal judge ruled the death penalty unconstitutional of which Harris appealed the death penalty arguing that 740 men and women on death row deserved to die regardless of historical inequalities in arrests and discriminate prosecutions.  

As grassroots organization took the lead with proposition 47 to reduce categories of non-violent felonies to misdemeanors, Harris refused to take a position, remaining silent where her voice could have easily brought swift justice for an already overcrowded California state prison system. As the rest of the nation began to hold serious discourse regarding marijuana legislation Harris laughed at the matter, mocking the unequal targeting and arrest of black men, only changing her opinion to match the sentiment of 2018 public opinion.

Bazelon goes on to note the following:

  • 2015, opposed a bill requiring investigation for police shootings
  • Refusing the regulation of statewide body cameras
  • Atrocious record of wrongful conviction cases
  • George Gage
  • Daniel Larsen
  • Johnny Baca
  • Kevin Cooper

Nonetheless, Bazelon is fair. She credits Harris for creating the Back on Track program allowing non-violent re-offenders access to resources proven to lower recidivism such as cognitive behavior therapy, education and housing.

Following Bazelon’s op-ed public reaction was controversial. Harris supporters jumped to her defense quickly rattling a list of her accomplishments as Congresswoman but the question remains,

Can a prosecutor be progressive?

How can one acknowledge the distinct flaws of the Prison industrial complex, the evidence based discrimination of black and brown young men, the unchecked and callous power of prosecutors, the increasingly elongated and arguably unconstitutional nature of post release surveillance? How can one acknowledge all of the shortcomings of our criminal justice system then assert than a prosecutor can be progressive?

Perhaps a prosecutor can be?  Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby used her platform to hold the officers accountable for Freddie Gray’s murder. The Harvard Law review reflects on the recent phenomenon of progressive DA’s by publishing the paradox of the “Progressive Prosecutor.”

https://harvardlawreview.org/2018/12/the-paradox-of-progressive-prosecution/

The Harvard Law publication concludes by writing that there is no such thing as the progressive prosecutor and that “such reforms attempt to fix broken systems without realizing that these systems are “working to re-entrench and legitimize current power arrangement.”  

As the next presidential election cycle gears up, do you want criminal justice revolution or simply criminal justice reform?

At 33 days, America is experiencing its longest government shutdown in history. Nearly 800,000 federal employees are furloughed without pay of which nearly 400,000 workers are being forced to report to work without pay. Under the unwise leadership of President Donald Trump, Congresswoman Kamala Harris may seem like the lesser of two evils but we must ask ourselves, “is she really the best we can do?”

Eager for more diverse representation we must ask ourselves, “has she truly represented the rights of diverse persons?”

In heated response to the NYT article Vox.com ran a pro Kamala Harris article reporting on her speech at her alma matter, Howard University.

https://www.vox.com/2019/1/21/18191864/kamala-harris-2020-criminal-justice

A young black female student voiced her support, She’s evolved.

Why is evolution a privilege of the elite whereas there are hundreds of men convicted by Harris still haunted by their choices unlike Harris who was never held accountable for her unlawful decision to withhold evidence. We have to stop with the discriminant forgiveness and hold everyone equally accountable to their past while equally granting everyone clemency for their future.

In conclusion, does she get my vote,

no.

If I’m forced between two characters with an equally malicious past and I must gamble on the trajectories of their futures does she then get my vote…

maybe.

Mass Incarceration, is the End Truly in Sight?

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/25/us/texas-district-attorney-race-mass-incarceration.html

From Dallas to Manhattan, one common trend resonates through America, “End Mass Incarceration Now.” From Black Lives Matter to Blue Lives Matter, it is no surprise that police brutality, specifically the violence imposed on Brown communities has become a mainstream of discourse, but its new profound political discourse is a pleasant but unexpected surprise.

Sarah Stockman, author of the NYT article, How ‘End Mass Incarceration’ Became a Slogan for D.A. Candidates reflects upon the political shift in District Attorney races from tough on crime stances, to promises to reform criminal justice.

The NYT articles highlights the re-election victory of a Dallas District Attorney, Faith Johnson, a Black female Republican who formed her election campaign on criminal justice reform. Her Democratic competitor, a white male, lost the election with an antiquated message to be tougher on crime.

This trend follows on the heels of Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance, a white, male Republican, notorious for his “keep Manhattan safe” is also singing a new tune, one that echos rehabilitation versus incarceration.

On 10/24/2018, D.A. Vance delivered the keynote remarks at the NYS Corrections and Youth Services Association Symposium. Wasting no time, he set the tone for his upcoming November 6, 2018 re-election,

The dual mission of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office is a safer New York and a fairer justice system. As applied to incarceration, that means our job is to keep Manhattan as safe as possible, using not one more day of jail than is necessary. That is the overall ethos that contemporary prosecutors’ officers need to work with in order to reduce mass incarceration safely and significantly (NYS Corrections and Youth Services Association Symposium, Oct. 2018).

Is Ending Mass Incarceration truly the new era of humanity?

Or is it simply a campaign tactic to appease Brown voters?

It’s hard to say.

Proposals for criminal justice reform juxtapose the stiff prosecution of non-violent drug policies advanced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Meanwhile states are slowly decriminalizing marijuana use and the New York Stock Exchange is now publicly trading marijuana stock as of 10/23/2018.

In a heated election cycle that influences executive branch power, elected Republicans are arguably threatened by the partisan alliance that connects them to the fiery, often unpredictable rhetoric of President Trump. Whereas crime reform was once a polarizing topic reserved for Brown Democratic constituents, Republicans such as D.A. Vance and D.A. Faith have co-signed to the justice reform agenda, hopefully for genuine gains.

Nonetheless, this is the perfect political climate to capitalize off criminal justice change. Activists (in)directly impacted by incarceration can rally to amplify the emotional and financial impact of mass incarceration and later hold elected officials accountable to the campaign promises that helped catapult them to power.

After a century of convict labor camps and unjust punitive punishment, policymakers are adapting. Mass incarceration may not end right now, but one thing is for certain, it is on schedule to end sometime soon.cornellsun

Photo credit: https://cornellsun.com/2018/03/28/mass-incarceration-week-to-educate-campus-on-one-of-the-biggest-human-rights-crises-organizer-says/