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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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%.
The above quotations are from The Truths We Hold|
An American Journey,
by Kamala Harris.
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