Harris, Warren want bold criminal justice reform

NASHUA — As each woman seeks to become the nation’s first female president, Democratic contenders Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are proposing plans to significantly reform America’s criminal justice system.

Both favor:

Eliminating private for-profit prisons;

Eliminating cash bail;

Legalizing marijuana;

Ending “mass incarceration;”

Ending the death penalty.

“It’s time to end mass incarceration. This includes legalizing marijuana, sentencing reforms, and abolishing private prisons. With the addition of job training and education, these actions will reduce crime and help build healthy communities,” Harris stated via Twitter on Monday.

“For the exact same crimes, Black Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested, charged, wrongfully convicted, and given harsher sentences. The evidence is clear that there are structural race problems in the criminal justice system,” Warren tweeted recently upon releasing her plan.

The Harris Plan

Prior to her 2016 election to the U.S. Senate, Harris served as a longtime prosecutor, including a tenure as California attorney general.

Harris states that a national standard should be established to allow the use of deadly force only when “necessary” and when no reasonable alternatives are available. She also proposes a National Police Systems Review Board, which would collect data and review police shootings and cases of alleged severe misconduct. The board would issue recommendations and implement safety standards based on evidence revealed in reviews.

“Black people are about four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana. Black Americans also make up nearly 30% of all drug-related arrests, despite accounting for only 12.5% of substance users,” the Harris plan states.

Moreover, Harris said in federal cases, the typical sentence for someone involved in trafficking crack cocaine is 18 times higher than that of someone who trafficked powder cocaine. She and many others equate this to the fact that African-Americans are more likely to be involved in crack than in powder. She said the sentences for cocaine should be equal, regardless of its form.

“As president, I will clear the nationwide rape kit backlog in my first term, ensure corporate bad actors are held accountable, and fight for victims’ rights,” Harris added via Twitter.

The Warren Plan

Warren alleges that in New Hampshire, African-Americans are only 1% of the state population, but constitute 7% of those incarcerated. Moreover, she said the percentage of Latinos in prison is more than double their percentage of the general population.

Information provided by Warren’s campaign states that 45% of the people released from New Hampshire’s prisons in 2014 returned to prison within three years of release.

As for the entire nation, information from Warren states that “14 million students attend schools with a police officer but without a single counselor, social worker, psychologist, or nurse.” Officials claim this is part of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Warren also connects homelessness and housing insecurity to the probability that people become engaged in criminal activity.

“My housing plan will help, by investing $500 billion over 10 years to build, preserve, and rehab affordable housing, creating 3.2 million new housing units and bringing down rental costs by 10%,” Warren stated.

Warren also favors or proposes to:

“Putting pharmaceutical executives on the hook to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that damage the lives of millions;”

“Rein in the most egregious prosecutorial abuses;” and

“Prohibit local law enforcement from buying military equipment.”