Kamala Harris in The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris

On Crime: Punish violent criminals, but understand they also need help

To be a progressive prosecutor is to understand that when a person takes another's life, or a child is molested, or a woman raped, the perpetrators deserve severe consequences. The job of a progressive prosecutor is to look out for the overlooked, to speak up for those whose voices aren't being heard, to see and address the causes of crime, not just their consequences. It is to recognize that not everyone needs punishment, that what many need, quite plainly, is help.
Source: The Atlantic commentary on memoir "The Truths We Hold" Jan 11, 2019

On Crime: Cash bail system favors the wealthy

One of the key issues I focused on during my first year in the Senate was the country's bail system--the process by which you can be released from jail while you await trial.

In this country, you are innocent until proven guilty. The Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits excessive bail. That's what justice is supposed to look like.

What it should not look like is the system we have in America today. The median bail in the United States is $10,000. But in American households with an income of $45,000, the median savings account balance is $2,530. The disparity is so high that roughly 9 out of 10 people who are detained can't afford to pay to get out.

By its very design, the cash bail system favors the wealthy and penalizes the poor. If you can pay cash up front, you can leave, and when your trial is over, you'll get all your money back. If you can't afford it, you either languish in jail or have to pay a bail bondsman, which costs a steep fee you will never get back.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p. 63-4 Jan 8, 2019

On Crime: Black men pay 35% higher bail than white men

The criminal justice system punishes people for their poverty. Between 2000 and 2014, 95 percent of the growth in jail population came from people awaiting trial. This is a group of largely nonviolent defendants who haven't been proven guilty.

Whether or not someone can get bailed out of jail shouldn't be based on how much money he has in the bank. Or the color of his skin: black men pay 35 percent higher bail than white men for the same charge. Latino men pay nearly 20 percent more. This isn't the stuff of coincidences. It is systematic. And we have to change it.

In 2017, I introduced a bill in the Senate to encourage states to replace their bail systems, moving away from arbitrarily assigning cash bail and systems where a person's actual risk of danger or flight is evaluated. If someone poses a threat to the public, we should detain them. If someone is likely to flee, we should detain them. But if not, we shouldn't be in the business of charging money for liberty.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p. 65 Jan 8, 2019

On Crime: I'm for both the police and for police accountability

We have to root out police brutality wherever we find it. What does it say about our standards of justice when police officers are so rarely held accountable for these incidents?

If there aren't serious consequences for police brutality in our justice system, what kind of a message does it send to the community? Public safety depends on public trust.

But when black and brown people are more likely to be stopped, arrested, and convicted than their white counterparts; when police departments are outfitted like military regiments; when egregious use of deadly force is not met with consequence, is it any wonder that the very credibility of these public institutions is on the line?

I say this as someone who has spent most of my career working with law enforcement. I say this as someone who has a great deal of respect for police officers. It is a false choice to suggest that you must either be for the police or for police accountability. I am for both. Most people I know are for both.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p. 71-2 Jan 8, 2019

On Crime: 2010: Ran for A.G. as anti-death-penalty D.A.

[When running for A.G. in 2000], plenty of fellow Democrats had considered me a long shot. One longtime political strategist announced that there was no way I could win, because I was "a woman running for attorney general, a woman who is a minority, a woman who is a minority, who is anti-death penalty who is DA of wacky San Francisco." Old stereotypes die hard. I was convinced that my perspective and experience made me the strongest candidate in the race, but I didn't know if the voters would agree.
Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p. 83 Jan 8, 2019

On Crime: I'm part of changing prosecutors' history of injustice

I wanted to work in the district attorney's office--I had found my calling--America has a deep and dark history of people using the power of the prosecutor as an instrument of injustice. I knew this history well--of innocent men framed, of charges brought against people of color without sufficient evidence, of prosecutors hiding information that would exonerate defendants. I grew up with these stories--so I understood my community's wariness. But history told another story too.

I knew the history of brave prosecutors who went after the Klu Klux Klan in the South. I also knew the legacy of Robert Kennedy, who, as U.S. attorney general, sent Department of Justice officials to protect the Freedom Riders in 1961.

I knew quite well that equal justice was an aspiration. I knew that the force of the law was applied unevenly, sometimes by design. But I also knew that what was wrong with the system didn't need to be an immutable fact. And I wanted to be a part of changing that.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.24-5 Jan 8, 2019

On Crime: Back on Track: expungement for first-time minor offenders

[As D.A., we developed a program we called] Back on Track. At the heart of the program was my belief in the power of redemption.

At the time, criminal justice policy was still trending toward things like harsher sentences or militarizing the police. More than a decade later, that attitude has, thankfully, evolved. Reentry programs like Back on Track are now part of the mainstream conversation. But in those days, I faced intensive backlash.

Though compassionate in its approach, Back on Track was intense by design. This was not a social welfare program. All of the first participants were nonviolent first-time offenders. Participants had to first plead guilty and accept the responsibility for the actions that had brought them there. We promised that if participants completed the program, we would have their charges expunged, which gave them more the reason to put in the effort. We hadn't designed a program that was about incremental improvement around the edges. It was about transformation.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.55-7 Jan 8, 2019

On Drugs: Dismantle War on Drugs; start with marijuana legalization

It's past time we get done dismantling the failed war on drugs--starting with legalizing marijuana. Between 2001 and 2010, more than seven million people were arrested for simple possession of marijuana. They are disproportionately black and brown. One stark example: during the first three months of 2018, 93 percent of the people the NYPD arrested for marijuana possession were people of color. These racial disparities are staggering and unconscionable. We need to legalize marijuana and regulate it. And we need to expunge nonviolent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.
Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p. 66 Jan 8, 2019

On Drugs: Opioid crisis requires emergency mobilization

In 2017, the administration declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, but the fund they used to deal with it had only--I kid you not--$57,000 in it. That represents less than one dollar for each person who died of a drug overdose that year. It's unconscionable.

This is a crisis that deserves a major federal mobilization. We need to declare a national state of emergency, which would provide more funding, right away, to help combat this disease--more resources to pay for addiction treatment, hospital services, skills training, and more.

We need to make sure that people who are addicted have access to medication-assisted-treatment (MAT)--drugs like buprenorphine which prevents withdrawal symptoms and cravings without producing the kind of high that heroin or OxyContin does. Many insurance companies will cover the cost of opioids while charging more than $200 a month for buprenorphine. That has to change. We have to change it.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.206-7 Jan 8, 2019

On Education: As child, bused to desegregated school with mixed races

[In my childhood in California] I would walk to the corner and get on the bus to Thousand Oaks Elementary School. I only learned later that we were part of a national experiment in desegregation, with working-class black children from the flatlands being bussed in one direction and the wealthier white children from the Berkeley Hills bused in the other. At the time, all I knew was that the big yellow bus was the way I got to school.

Looking at the photo of my first-grade class reminds me of how wonderful it was to grow up in such a diverse environment. Because the students came from all over the area, we were a varied bunch; some grew up in public housing and others were the children of professors. I remember celebrating varied cultural holidays at school and learning to count to ten in several languages.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.11 Jan 8, 2019

On Education: Took on Corinthian College, a for-profit college scam

When I was attorney general of California, we took on Corinthian Colleges Inc., one of the largest for-profit college scams in the country. In order to get students and investors to sign up, Corinthian representatives lied incessantly. They told investors that more than 60% of their students were successfully placed in sustainable jobs. They charged students enormous amounts for their degrees. They advertised programs they didn't offer and penalized their telemarketers if they revealed the truth to prospective students.

Even more venal, Corinthian targeted people living at the poverty line. Corinthian's internal documents betrayed the company's attitude toward its own students: they called their target demographic "isolated," "impatient" men and women with "low self-esteem," who are "unable to see and plan well" for their own future. As far as I was concerned, this conduct was no different from the criminal predators I've known--purposely targeting those most in need.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.224 Jan 8, 2019

On Energy & Oil: Climate change is a national security threat to America

When you speak to experts on international conflicts, you will find that they look at climate change as a national security threat--a "threat multiplier" that will exacerbate poverty and political instability, creating conditions that enable violence, despair, even terrorism. An unstable, erratic climate will beget an unstable, erratic world.

For example, climate change will lead to droughts. Droughts will lead to famine. Famine will drive desperate people to leave their homes in search of sustenance. Massive flows of displaced people will lead to refugee crises. Refugee crisis will lead to tension and instability across borders.

The hard truth is that climate change is going to cause terrible instability and desperation, and that will put American national security at risk. That's why as part of President Obama's national security strategy, climate change was identified as a national security threat of the highest priority.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.244-5 Jan 8, 2019

On Families & Children: 2004: Performed same-sex marriage despite state ban

In the year 2000, California voters approved a ballot initiative--Prop 22--that required the state to define marriage as a union between people of the opposite sex. For years we fought it.

During Valentine's Day week in 2004, then-San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom decided to allow marriages for same-sex couples to proceed anyway.

around the block, waiting to get in. They were counting down the minutes before a government would finally recognize their right to marry whomever they loved. The joy and anticipation were palpable. Some of them had been waiting decades.

I got out of my car and walked up the steps of City Hall, where I bumped into a city official. "Kamala, come and help us," she said, a glowing smile on her face. "We need more people to perform the marriages." I was delighted to be a part of it.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.111 Jan 8, 2019

On Families & Children: Sanctuary for prostituted youth so they can escape pimps

[In San Francisco in 2000] one of our priorities was creating a safe place for prostituted youth to get love and support and treatment. I knew from years of experience that the survivors we were trying to help usually had nowhere to go. People often wondered why it was that exploited kids picked up by the police would go right back to the pimps who "took care of them." It didn't seem so strange to me--where else were these kids able to turn?

Our task force proposed establishing a safe house for sexually exploited youth--a sanctuary that would offer substance abuse and mental health treatment; the resources needed to get back to school; and a network of support to keep vulnerable young people safe, healthy, and on track. We advocated for funding to create the safe house as well as to run a public education campaign.

To our delight, the board of supervisors adopted and funded our recommendations. We were able to rescue scores of runaways within the first couple of years.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.35-6 Jan 8, 2019

On Families & Children: Shut down brothels masquerading as massage parlors

[In S.F. in 2000] I spent two years at the city attorney's office. I started by co-founding a task force to study the issues of sexually exploited youth.

We believed it was important to disrupt the network of brothels masquerading as massage parlors, where so many people were being sexually exploited, so we asked the board of supervisors to direct law enforcement to investigate them.

[After S.F. funded a task force on prostitution], law enforcement shut down nearly three dozen brothels in the city.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.36 Jan 8, 2019

On Health Care: We pay more for prescriptions than abroad: they negotiate

Compared with people in other wealthy countries, Americans face extraordinarily high prescription drug prices. In 2016, for example, the same dose of Crestor, a medication that treats high cholesterol, costs 62% more in the US than just across the border in Canada. This disparity exists with drug after drug. 58% of Americans take prescription drugs; and 25% find their medications difficult to afford.

Why are Americans paying so much more for the medications we need? Because, unlike many other advanced countries, the U.S. government doesn't negotiate prices on prescription drugs. When a government is purchasing medicines in bulk, it can negotiate a better price and pass those cost savings to consumers.

Medicare, which covers about 55 million people, could have incredible bargaining power to drive significantly lower prescription prices through negotiation. But lawmakers from both parties, at the behest of the pharmaceutical lobby, have prohibited Medicare from doing so.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.188-9 Jan 8, 2019

On Immigration: Border wall sends the message "KEEP OUT"

A wall on the border with Mexico was a total waste of taxpayer money. I am a strong believer in border security--but experts agree that a wall will not secure our border.

But there was a bigger reason to oppose the border wall. A useless wall on the southern border would be nothing more than a symbol, a monument standing in opposition to not just everything I value, but to the fundamental values upon which this country was built. The Statue of Liberty is the monument that defines to the world who we are. Emma Lazarus's words--"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"--speak true to our true character: a generous country that respects and embraces those who have made the difficult journey to our shores, often fleeing harm. How could I vote to build what would be little more than a monument, designed to send the cold, hard message "KEEP OUT"?

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.164-5 Jan 8, 2019

On Immigration: $3M to get lawyers for children from Northern Triangle

In the summer of 2014, an unprecedented surge of tens of thousands of children and adolescents fled the violence of the Northern Triangle through human smuggling networks that brought them to the United States.

In Murrieta, California, several buses carrying roughly 140 undocumented children and parents were on their way to a processing center. A crowd had gathered, blocking the street, waving flags & signs & yelling "Nobody wants you!" "You're not welcome!" "Turn around and go back home!" There were children inside the buses. Their only wrong was that they had fled horrific violence.

I had to do something about this. I sponsored legislation to provide $3 million to other nonprofits that were providing these children with legal representation.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.168-70 Jan 8, 2019

On Immigration: Zero tolerance is inhumane: end child separation

On April 6,2018, Attorney General Sessions announced a zero-tolerance policy at the border, meaning that the administration would refer for criminal prosecution any adult crossing the border illegally, regardless of the reason, and that this could include separating children from their parents.

There are a few things more cruel, more inhumane, more fundamentally evil than ripping a child from her parent's arms. The administration claimed that it wouldn't separate families seeking asylum if they arrived at an official port of entry, as opposed to other parts of the border. But that didn't hold true. Many documented cases of family separation at ports of entry.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.170-2 Jan 8, 2019

On Tax Reform: LIFT Act: $500 monthly tax credit for eligible middle class

57 percent of Americans don't have enough cash to cover a $500 unexpected expense. That's one of the reasons I've introduced the LIFT the Middle Class Tax Act in the U.S. Senate, a bill that creates a major new middle-class tax credit that would provide eligible families up to $6,000 a year--the equivalent of $500 a month. Families would be able to receive the credit as a monthly stipend, rather than wait for a refund the following year. It's a different kind of safety net, one that prevents hardworking people from falling out of the middle class, or gives them a fair shot at attaining it for their families. This is the kind of tax relief we can provide when we stop giving endless tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy.
Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.219 Jan 8, 2019

On Technology: Smartphone videos force police brutality to be seen

Police brutality occurs in America. With the advent of the smartphone, what was well known only to certain communities is now being seen by the world. People can no longer pretend it isn't happening. It cannot be ignored or denied when we see video. And we must remember that tragedies occur over and over again, most of them unfilmed and unseen. If people fear murder and beatings and harassment from the police who patrol their very streets, can we really say that we live in a free society?
Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p. 71-2 Jan 8, 2019

On Technology: Secure Elections Act: prevent foreign interference

Given Russia's unprecedented effort to undermine confidence in our election system. There's no question that the Kremlin is emboldened--to try again.

James Lankford and I were the only members of the Senate who served on both the Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees. As such, we were uniquely suited to come together in a nonpartisan way to develop legislation to combat these attacks. At the end of December 2017, we introduced the Secure Elections Act, to protect the U.S. from future foreign interference in our elections.

The legislation would establish clear expert guidelines for securing election systems--including, for example, the need for paper ballots. Russia might be able to hack a machine from afar, but it can't hack a piece of paper. And it would provide $386 million in grants for cybersecurity improvements. It would also establish what's known as a bug bounty program for election infrastructure--where hackers are paid for identifying software vulnerabilities.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.238-9 Jan 8, 2019

On Technology: Cyber doctrine: when is a cyberattack an act of war?

In a world where tech can be weaponized, we need to deploy the very best technology in order to respond. And that means constantly upgrading our efforts so that we are always a step ahead.

We need to invest in the innovations and breakthroughs that we'll need in order to stay protected down the line. That's one of the reasons I've put forward a bill to invest in quantum computing, a frontier technology that would put the U.S. at the forefront of the race for technological superiority. Our pursuit of innovation cannot be viewed from an economic lens alone. It matters to national security, too. It's also one of the reasons I believe we must be a country that welcomes highly skilled students and professionals from around the world to study at our universities and work at our companies.

Ultimately, I believe we are going to need to develop a cyber doctrine. As a matter of principle, we will have to decide when and whether a cyberattack is an act of war, and what kind of response it warrants.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.242-3 Jan 8, 2019

On Technology: Update water infrastructure based on Israeli model

I think a lot about water security. A diversified approach would work on multiple fronts simultaneously. Conservation is the cheapest, most effective way to increase our water resources. But we also need to update our aging water infrastructure, improve our storm water capture and storage capacity, and make smart investments in water recycling, purification, and desalinization.

There's a lot we can learn from friends and partners who have already made such investments--especially Israel, a global leader on water security issues. In 2018, I travelled to Israel and toured its Sorek desalination plant, which uses reverse osmosis to produce clean drinking water from the sea. I had a glass. It tasted as good as any water I've ever had.

And that's not all. As many have said, the Israelis have made the desert bloom. They've done so in part by successfully reclaiming 86% of their wastewater and purifying it for agricultural reuse. By contrast, the United States, reclaims only 7% to 8%.

Source: The Truths We Hold, by Kamala Harris, p.246 Jan 8, 2019

The above quotations are from The Truths We Hold
An American Journey,

by Kamala Harris
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Page last updated: Aug 11, 2019