Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harris is Attorney General Elect--Good Tidings for Re-Entry?

By now many of our readers probably already know that Steve Cooley has conceded the race to Kamala Harris, who is California's Attorney General Elect. What does this mean for the criminal justice system?

Over the last two years I've been baffled, and somewhat amused, by progressive and radical activists who have expressed their disappointment in Obama. Their expectation that dramatic radical change would occur overnight, and that all of its features would please them, was, to be frank, absurd. Even progressive politicians are politicians, and they operate in a world of constraints and coalitions. Anyone anointing a politician as the messiah is setting herself for a sore disappointment.

I therefore urge our readers to recall Harris' promises to voters. These included a commitment to fighting hate crime, preventing prevalent phenomena like identity theft, raising the violent felony conviction rate, actively fighting gang-related crime (particularly among juveniles), and addressing quality of crime issues through community courts and mental health outreach. She opposes the death penalty and is committed to reentry solutions as a way to reduce recidivism and alleviate overcrowding. This platform is very promising, and certainly cause for cheer over the election results. Harris is a smart, principled, fair and honest public official. However, being California Attorney General differs greatly from being San Francisco District Attorney. She will be operating on a difficult, polarized political map. It is our responsibility to ensure that she does her job.


Jesse said...

How can we ensure that she does her job? (Really: by what mechanisms can voters hold the AG accountable?)

Hadar Aviram said...

There are various things we can do, Jesse. Here are the important ones:

1. Know what is going on! Read newspapers, legal weekly periodicals, the CCC blog. Learn how much of what goes on can be attributed to statewide policy.

2. Write and call! Let the AG office know that you expect more focus on rehabilitation and reentry.

3. Pay attention to the introduction of various ad-hoc review boards and committees, which solicit information from the public.

4. If you are lawyers, parole agents, correctional officers, or work in reentry or rehabilitative facilities, keep your eyes on the dream of substantial reduction in mass incarceration and do what you can on a daily basis to fulfill this goal, communicating your ideas to the people you work with and for.