Kamala Harris’s ‘The Truths We Hold’: Review

Under District Attorney Kamala Harris, the overall felony-conviction rate in San Francisco rose from 52 % in 2003 to 67 % in 2006, the best seen in a decade. Many of the convictions accounting for that increase stemmed from drug-related prosecutions, which additionally soared, from 56 % in 2003 to 74 % in 2006. As California’s lawyer common, Harris pushed a punitive initiative that handled truancy amongst elementary schoolers as a crime for which oldsters could be jailed. In 2014, she tried to dam the discharge of nonviolent second-strike offenders from overcrowded state prisons on the grounds that their paroling would lead to prisons losing an important labor pool.

The following year, she defended the California state prosecutor Robert Murray after he falsified a defendant’s confession that was used to threaten a sentence of life in jail, and sided with state jail leaders in contesting a transgender inmate’s bid for gender-confirmation surgery. Twice in 2016, she introduced criminal charges related to human trafficking against Backpage.com, a web based categorized web site regularly utilized by sex employees, and later, as a senator, she co-sponsored federal bills that led to the location’s seizure, a transfer that sex employees and activists stated threatens their survival.

In contemplating the gaps between this observe document and the smoothed-over platitudes of The Truths We Hold, one story Harris tells is especially instructive. Early within the guide, she recounts an anecdote from a summer season she spent as an intern with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in 1988. “I’ll always remember the time my supervisor was engaged on a case involving a drug bust. The police had arrested quite a lot of people within the raid, including an harmless bystander: a woman who had been on the incorrect place on the incorrect time and had been swept up within the dragnet,” she writes. “Everything was on the road for this woman, her household, her livelihood, her standing in her neighborhood, her dignity, her liberty. And but she’d carried out nothing incorrect.”

In this story (which she additionally shared for a New York Times Magazine profile wherein she repeated the anecdote about her rap tape), Harris considers quite a lot of elements in regards to the woman’s life that may imply a weekend spent in jail would have life-altering penalties: Does she work weekends? Is she going to have to clarify to her employer the place she was? Is she going to get fired? Of the woman’s youngsters, Harris wonders: Do they know she’s in jail? The story concludes with the younger Harris desperately lobbying a decide to evaluation the harmless woman’s case that very same day; luckily, “with the pound of a gavel, just like that, she was free.”

Though serving to to free this woman was certainly a victory, it’s telling that Harris carves out narrative area for this “defining second” in her personal profession with out dedicating any to the destiny or backstories of the others arrested as a part of the raid. The vanquishing of a reasonably easy injustice is a compelling learn, however it betrays the circumstances that propelled the anecdote’s different actors into the identical courthouse. Harris by no means gives specifics of the bigger story, and disappointingly, the textual content by no means questions their innate criminality.

Harris acknowledges in The Truths We Hold that drug crimes have been and are among the many most disproportionately prosecuted offenses. In her home state and throughout the nation, these sorts of raids are likely to target black and Latino populations, upending lives and communities with little proof of hurt dedicated. Harris’s 2009 guide, Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer, did little to include the existential risk that these kinds of arrests posed to communities of colour. “Virtually all law-abiding residents really feel safer once they see officers strolling a beat,” she wrote then. “This is as true in economically poor areas as in rich ones.” It’s an assumption with a glaring oversight.

In The Truths We Hold, the senator allots extra space to those that could not “really feel safer,” drawing rhetorically from latest activism, including the Black Lives Matter motion. She notes the deep bias baked into policing programs and affirms that the regulation doesn’t deal with all folks equally. She endorses the legalization of marijuana (with caveats), regardless of having literally laughed at the thought in 2014, when her Republican opponent ran to the left of her on the problem. But Harris nonetheless writes in regards to the routine upheavals of drug arrests with indifferent, uninspired prose (“The instances have been as simple to show as they have been tragic to cost”) that may learn as extra facile than humane. A forthright clarification of her mental evolution, particularly on criminal justice, would have extra organically bridged the hole between the 2 texts.

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