Kamala Harris in Smart on Crime, by Kamala Harris

On Crime: Smart on Crime: focus on violence, youth, & prevention

America's prison population now tops two million, and we spend roughly $200 billion annually on responding to crime, but our system is plagued with repeat offenders. The sad fact is that 2/3 of those released from prison or jail re-offended within 2 or 3 years. If we have the courage to reject the myths and the outmoded approaches of the status quo, the result will be a more effective, efficient criminal justice system that truly gets tough on crime by being Smart on Crime. Smart on Crime has three pillars:
  1. maintain a relentless and intense focus on violence and the prosecution of violent criminals;
  2. identify key points in the lives of young offenders and stop them from continuing and escalating their criminal behavior;
  3. and support victims of crime and, in the process, foster crime prevention.
The opportunity before us encourages empowerment of communities: rather than people feeling like helpless victims of crime, they can become educated consumers of safety.
Source: Smart on Crime, by Kamala Harris, "Introduction" Oct 7, 2009

On Crime: Crime pyramid: nonviolent offender isn't hardened criminal

When I look at the criminal justice system today, the result is best represented by a pyramid. At the very top are the very worst crimes. Only a quarter of all offenders admitted to prison are violent offenders. The largest mass of the crime pyramid is the truly staggering number of nonviolent offenders.

The problem is that we have been using only the tools best suited to combatting the offenders at the top of the pyramid, and we have been using them on the entire crime pyramid. Most nonviolent offenders are learning the wrong lesson, and in many cases, they are becoming better and more hardened criminals during their prison stays.

It's time to rock the crime pyramid.

These lower-in-the-pyramid offenders often have no job skills, and far more often than not are addicted to drugs. We quite appropriately arrest them when they offend and re-offend, but then we warehouse them in jails, which pushes them deeper into the grip of gangs and the culture of hardened criminals.

Source: Smart on Crime, by Kamala Harris, "Introduction" Oct 7, 2009

On Crime: Treat crime economically: most safety for the investment

After nearly twenty years prosecuting people who rob others of their dignity and rightful claim to justice, I feel that as a society we must demand a much higher return on the enormous investment we make in our criminal justice system.

I believe that in the criminal justice system notions such as supply and demand, input and output, and looking for patterns are not abstract concepts. They tell us a lot about the effectiveness of what we're doing. When you measure, you can see quite clearly the results of making particular adjustments to complex systems. And we can apply the logic and principles of economics to fight against crime. It is crucial to ask how we can achieve the most safety for the lowest cost. We have spent billions of dollars on ineffective solutions that have not delivered the safety we must demand.

And today, more urgently than ever, I think all Americans want to spend our limited resources on those things that will deliver the most safety for the investment.

Source: Smart on Crime, by Kamala Harris, "Preface" Oct 7, 2009

On Drugs: Deal with drug addiction in offenders, but still arrest them

[Low-level criminal] offenders often have no job skills, and far more often than not are addicted to drugs. Drug crimes in particular exact a terrible toll and rob people young and old of hope.

And remember that many of these offenders are small players in the underground business of drug sales and trafficking, and therefore are closely linked with gangs, violence, and gun crimes. While we need to arrest and make all offenders accountable for their crimes, we are finding ways to transform the status quo approach that results in offense-arrest-jail-offense-arrest-jail--a pattern I sometimes call "synchronized drowning"--into a new path of accountability and reintegration that builds stronger, safer communities.

Source: Smart on Crime, by Kamala Harris, "Introduction" Oct 7, 2009

On Principles & Values: Grandfather served as high-level diplomat in India

Every two years we traveled to India, where my earliest memories are of walking along the beach where my grandfather and his friends, retired public servants who had spent their careers in the government, working to solve public problems. I would listen to them talk about politics, corruption, and reform. My grandfather would talk to me about the importance of doing the right thing, the just thing. He was part of the movement for India to gain independence, and later became Joint Secretary for the Indian government, a post akin to our Deputy Secretary of State. He had numerous foreign service assignments, including several years as an advisor to the newly independent government of Zambia in Africa. My grandmother was betrothed to him at age twelve and began living with him at sixteen, and she was quite a force in her own right. After they were married, she would sometimes take to the streets with a bullhorn to talk to poor women about how they could get birth control.
Source: Smart on Crime, by Kamala Harris, "Preface" Oct 7, 2009

The above quotations are from Smart on Crime
by Kamala Harris.
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by Kamala Harris
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Kamala Harris on other issues:
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Page last updated: Apr 03, 2019