Kamala Harris’s ‘The Truths We Maintain’: Overview
Beneath District Lawyer Kamala Harris, the general felony-conviction price in San Francisco rose from 52 p.c in 2003 to 67 p.c in 2006, the best seen in a decade. Lots of the convictions accounting for that improve stemmed from drug-related prosecutions, which additionally soared, from 56 p.c in 2003 to 74 p.c in 2006. As California’s lawyer common, Harris pushed a punitive initiative that handled truancy amongst elementary schoolers as against the law for which folks may very well 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 end in prisons dropping an vital labor pool.
The next 12 months, 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 surgical procedure. Twice in 2016, she introduced legal prices associated to human trafficking towards Backpage.com, a web-based categorised web site regularly utilized by intercourse employees, and later, as a senator, she co-sponsored federal payments that led to the positioning’s seizure, a transfer that intercourse employees and activists mentioned threatens their survival.
In contemplating the gaps between this observe report and the smoothed-over platitudes of The Truths We Maintain, one story Harris tells is especially instructive. Early within the guide, she recounts an anecdote from a summer time she spent as an intern with the Alameda County District Lawyer’s Workplace 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 few people within the raid, together with an harmless bystander: a lady who had been on the improper place on the improper time and had been swept up within the dragnet,” she writes. “Every thing was on the road for this lady, her household, her livelihood, her standing in her neighborhood, her dignity, her liberty. And but she’d accomplished nothing improper.”
On this story (which she additionally shared for a New York Occasions Journal profile wherein she repeated the anecdote about her rap tape), Harris considers quite a few elements concerning the lady’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 elucidate to her employer the place she was? Is she going to get fired? Of the girl’s kids, Harris wonders: Do they know she’s in jail? The story concludes with the younger Harris desperately lobbying a choose to evaluate the harmless lady’s case that very same day; happily, “with the pound of a gavel, identical to that, she was free.”
Although serving to to free this lady was certainly a victory, it’s telling that Harris carves out narrative house 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 simple injustice is a compelling learn, nevertheless it betrays the circumstances that propelled the anecdote’s different actors into the identical courthouse. Harris by no means presents specifics of the bigger story, and disappointingly, the textual content by no means questions their innate criminality.
Harris acknowledges in The Truths We Maintain that drug crimes had been and are among the many most disproportionately prosecuted offenses. In her dwelling state and throughout the nation, these sorts of raids have a tendency to focus on black and Latino populations, upending lives and communities with little proof of hurt dedicated. Harris’s 2009 guide, Good on Crime: A Profession Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer, did little to include the existential menace that these types of arrests posed to communities of shade. “Nearly all law-abiding residents really feel safer once they see officers strolling a beat,” she wrote then. “That is as true in economically poor areas as in rich ones.” It’s an assumption with a obtrusive oversight.
In The Truths We Maintain, the senator allots extra space to those that might not “really feel safer,” drawing rhetorically from latest activism, together with the Black Lives Matter motion. She notes the deep bias baked into policing techniques and affirms that the legislation doesn’t deal with all individuals equally. She endorses the legalization of marijuana (with caveats), regardless of having actually laughed on the thought in 2014, when her Republican opponent ran to the left of her on the difficulty. However Harris nonetheless writes concerning the routine upheavals of drug arrests with indifferent, uninspired prose (“The circumstances had been as straightforward to show as they had been tragic to cost”) that may learn as extra facile than humane. A forthright clarification of her mental evolution, particularly on legal justice, would have extra organically bridged the hole between the 2 texts.