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Sen. Kamala Harris releases new plans to change the criminal justice system

In her proposal, Harris vows to abolish the death penalty and solitary confinement, end cash bail and collect more data on officer-involved shootings

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the 25th Essence Festival in New Orleans, Saturday, July 6, 2019.
Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

California Sen. Kamala Harris released a new proposal on Monday that spelled out her plans to reform the criminal justice system.

In her proposal, Harris vows to abolish the death penalty and solitary confinement, end cash bail and collect more data on officer-involved shootings. Harris’ plan also proposes the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing at the federal level and ending private prisons.

Harris stated that while she believes the death penalty is “immoral, discriminatory, ineffective and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars,” the use of deadly force can be used, but only when “necessary” and when no reasonable alternatives are available.

Harris’ plans come in the same week that Democrats are set to take part in their third round of presidential primary debates, according to Fox News.

During the last round of debates in July, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard went after Harris, saying she had “blocked evidence” that could have helped “innocent people” on death row.

According to The New York Times, criminal justice experts and activists are mocking Harris’ characterization of herself as a “progressive prosecutor” because of her past use of the same “tough on crime” instincts that created current criminal justice issues.

In defense of her new plans, Harris said the political environment shifted, not her core ideology.

“I was swimming against the current, and thankfully the currents have changed,” she said. “The winds are in our sails. And I’m riding that just like everybody else is — because it’s long overdue.”

According to DeRay McKesson, an activist who help found Campaign Zero, an initiative to end political violence, criminal justice activists have been waiting for the release of Harris’ plans.

“The bar is different for her because she’s legitimately an expert,” McKesson told The New York Times. “We’ve been looking for a plan that will fundamentally transform the system, because we know it’s a system she knows.”

In Harris’ plan, she promises to use her voice as president to advocate for change.

“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. “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.”