Since her decision to run for President, and even now that she's the Democratic nominee for Vice President, much has been made of Kamala Harris' record as a prosecutor. Most of it being negative due to her large number of marijuana possession convictions, which mostly had a negative impact on black people. However, there's some key talking points I want people to remember when discussing her record, because a lot of misleading information is being spread. This election is far too important, for the public to not have the context behind what they are reading on the internet.
Let's start with often made claim that Kamala locked up over 1,500 people for marijuana possession. This claim stems from a claim made from Tulsi Gabbard during the democratic primary, which is incredibly misleading. Politifact, a pulitzer prize winning, bipartisan fact checking organization, obtained data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. From 2011-2016, when Kamala Harris was the Attorney General in California, there were 1,883 admissions to the state prison for marijuana related offenses. However during that 5 year span, the amount of admissions on a yearly basis dropped significantly each year. Her first year as Attorney general there were 817 admissions, compared to just 137 in her last year. Now even though these numbers happened during her tenure, the Attorney General does not actually prosecute marijuana crimes. Those cases actually would've been handled by lower-level state attorneys.
So Kamala is being held accountable for convictions, she didn't personally prosecute, and the job of a prosecutor, is to get convictions. At this time, she had no control, or really even a voice in decisions on the legality of marijuana, which became legal after she left her Attorney General post to become the Senator of California. So is this really on Kamala Harris, or is it the failure of California (and every other state) who criminalize marijuana in the first place? It's important that we remember, a prosecutor is just a cog in the system. Blaming Kamala for black men being in jail for marijuana possession, is like blaming a nurse at a hospital who gave patients opioids, for the epidemic of opiod addictions. The Nurse is just doing her job, the doctor prescribed the medicine, and the pharmaseutical companies that created it are the ones selling it and profiting off of these addictions. Don't blame the Nurse, blame the source of the problem.
Now let's address Mike Pence's claim that "African Americans were 19% more likely to be to be prosecuted for minor drug offenses," in Tuesday's VP debate. There's no data that backs this claim, but what he may have been referring to is a 2012 study from the nonprofit Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, which found that in 2009, during Harris’ second term as the city’s prosecutor, Black San Franciscans between the ages of 10 and 69 were 19 times more likely to be arrested for drug-related felonies. However, the study does not review prosecutions, over which Harris would have had control.
Of course, people ate this up even though there's no data to support it, but in the same debate, Pence denied that systemic racism and complicit bias existed within police departments and the criminal justice system. It's a tad hypocritical to call out possible racial bias (again with no data to support it) by an Attorney general, and then claim that systemic racism doesn't exist. And again, as a prosecutor, her job is to present a case for why one should be convicted. It's a defense attorney's job to present a case why somone should not be convicted. Guess who actually makes the convictions...judges and juries! So the people to blame for convictions are lawmakers who determine what is and isn't legal, and judges who enforce such laws and hand out sentences.
There's many more aspects of Kamala's record that we could examine until we're blue in the face, but I think you get my point. Kamala Harris prosecution record is being criticized unlike any prosecutor I have ever seen, and maybe her run for the highest office in the land brought the spotlight on it. Daniel Cameron (a Trump supporting Republican) just let Breonna Taylor's killers walk free, and he's not receiving nearly as much backlash as Kamala for her record. Also, just look at the hyocrisy behind these criticisms. On the right wing, they claim Kamala wasn't tough enough on crime, or didn't support law enforcement. Pence actually referred to her as the most liberal senator in history during the VP debate (which also contradicts him calling out her prosecution record). Those on the left claim, she didn't do enough, or paint her as this evil prosecutor who locked up her own people. Well which is it?
The last thing I want people to consider is that people are allowed to involve in their beliefs as they receive more information. For example, the decriminilaztion of marijuana becomes more and more popular every year, after it being demonized for so long. Which is something Kamala actually wants to do nationwide. So is it possible, Kamala Harris was a cog in a system she did not create, saw issues with it, and ran for office to fix them? Clearly in the numbers above, her office sent less and less people to prison for Marijuana each year. Are we just not going to give her credit for that? And if elected, she ultimatley could have a hand it decriminalizing marijuana nationally, and exponging records of those convicted prior. The other question that should be asked here is, are republicans going to do that. That answer is definitively no.
Ask yourself this, why are you more critical of Kamala Harris' prosectuion record, than you are of any other prosecutor or any other person in public office who has the power to decriminalize these things?