Since Sen. Kamala Harris announced her 2020 presidential campaign, she’s been met with adversity for her history of allegedly contributing to mass incarceration among African-Americans. Though she’s been criticized, Harris still defends her contributions to the justice system when she was a prosecutor.
During a recent interview with The Breakfast Club, Harris detailed her experience as a prosecutor and explained the good she did at that juncture of her career, including a rehabilitation program she created for young men in San Francisco, Calif., which at the time many didn’t understand.
“When I created a re-entry initiative I was the elected district attorney of San Francisco,” she said. “I focused on young men, getting them jobs and counseling. People would say to me, ‘What are you doing?’ DA’s would not know what re-entry meant. They would literally ask me, ‘What does the word mean?. Democrats and Republicans would say to me, ‘What are you doing? Your job is to put people in jail not to let them out of jail.'”
The Democratic representative also revisited her time as a prosecutor at the height of Los Angeles’ plight with gang violence, and the system’s attempt to crack it down. For Harris, it seemed conflicting because she was instructed to profile people who fit the description of those close to her in her own community.
“As a prosecutor, when I first started, it was during the height of what was happening with the Crips and Bloods mostly in L.A. So California was passing all these gang enhancements,” she said. “I’ll never forget sitting in my office, where there was a bunch of folks that I work with, standing outside talking about how they were going to prove that a gang enhancement, which would cause someone to go to prison longer, and they started talking about the way a person was dressed, and the corner they were hanging out on, and the music they were listening to.”
“So I walked out of my office and said, ‘Hey, so my cousins and my family, members of my family, dress that way. I have family and friends who live in that neighborhood, and I’ve got, I’m going to date myself, I’ve got a tape of that music in my car right now,’ ” she continued.
Harris also discussed her Indian and black heritage and her days at Howard University. Watch the full interview below.