This morning, I announced my plan to reform our nation’s broken criminal justice system. It’s a long and detailed plan, and I hope you’ll take the time to read and engage with it over the coming days. (Read the plan)
I come from a family of fighters. My parents were active in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. My sister and I would joke we grew up around a bunch of adults who spent full-time marching and shouting about this thing called “justice.” From the day I was born, I’ve known how flawed the criminal justice system is.
And for years, politicians from both sides have ignored the racial biases or made them worse. I wasn’t going to do that. So when I left law school I went inside the system to keep people safe and make it more fair.
Throughout my career, I have made groundbreaking reforms to emphasize re-entry and rehabilitation. But there is so much more work to be done.
Our nation’s criminal justice system is unequal and unjust. It’s our responsibility to change it.
That’s why I’m proud to share my comprehensive criminal justice reform plan with you — and invite you to listen to a conversation I had last week with activists and experts who are deeply engaged in reforming the system: Angela Rye, Jamira Burley, Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, and D. Watkins.
We had a wide-ranging and thoughtful conversation. I am grateful to them for taking the time to sit down with me and speak candidly about the challenges we face. You can watch the conversation here:
The core principle guiding us is this: it makes no sense to have a system that addresses crime after the fact. We must start by preventing crime — and that begins by strengthening and building healthier communities.
We need to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Trust is a reciprocal relationship, and it does not exist without accountability: for too long, the onus has been on the community to “trust” law enforcement, but with no accountability. Law enforcement must earn the trust of the community and be accountable.
We have to create accountability not just for people charged with a crime, but for everyone else participating in the system as well — and that includes prosecutors, law enforcement officers, courts, and prisons.
Accountability starts with acknowledging decades of failed policies, beginning with the War on Drugs.
We will legalize marijuana and prioritize rehabilitation and treatment for drug offenders.
We will enact sentencing reforms and ban the use of private prisons to remove profit from incarceration — because no human being should profit from putting another human being in prison.
We will create a National Police Systems Review Board to collect data and review police shootings and other cases of misconduct to recommend and institute safety standards across the country. We’ll support national standards for use of deadly force only when necessary and when no reasonable alternatives exist.
We’ll hold prosecutors accountable and collect national data on charging, plea, and sentencing decisions.
We will end money bail, end fines and fees that criminalize the poor, end solitary confinement and end the death penalty.
We will end mass incarceration and build a system that treats people humanely and creates public safety.
But we can’t pretend that the criminal justice system exists in a vacuum, or that laws and statutes addressing crime itself will fix all of our problems.
Too often we task this broken system with addressing all of a community’s problems. Decades of underinvestment in schools and public health. Untreated and undiagnosed trauma.
We have to invest in our communities. We have to invest in public schools, pay our teachers their value, and prioritize hiring teachers of color.
We have to invest in mental health resources and substance treatment programs that actually work.
We can and will reform our system of criminal justice in America. But it’s going to take all of us, changing the way we think and talk about justice, crime, and what it means to live in a civil and just society.
I hope that you’ll take some time in the coming days to read through my plan for criminal justice reform and engage in this conversation.
Thanks for all that you do.
For The People,
— Kamala Harris