Issue Position: Criminal Justice Reform

Issue Position

Kamala believes that we must maintain a relentless focus on reducing violence and aggressively prosecuting violent criminals. But as a career prosecutor, she has also seen firsthand the devastating effects of mass incarceration and the revolving door of recidivism. We deserve a better return on our investment. Instead of a justice system that responds to all crime as equal, we need a "smart on crime" approach -- one that applies innovative, data-driven methods to make our system more efficient and effective. Being smart on crime means that we focus on the most serious and violent offenses at the top of the crime pyramid and avoid treating all offenders the same way. In addition to reducing violence and prosecuting violent criminals, this approach includes identifying key points in the lives of young offenders to get them back on track, stopping the escalation and continuation of criminal behavior, and supporting victims of crime.

She knows that real crime prevention and criminal justice reform can increase fairness, help remedy inequality, and reduce recidivism while reducing crime at the same time. Kamala rejects the false choice between safety and justice and, in fact, she believes that ensuring fairness and guaranteeing individuals' constitutional rights within the criminal justice system builds trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve while increasing public safety.

Over the last 40 years, this country's prison population has grown 500 percent. We now warehouse almost 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. Approximately $70 billion dollars are spent on corrections annually with prisons and jails consuming a growing portion of the nearly $200 billion we spend each year on public safety.

As Senator, Kamala will be a leader on federal smart on crime efforts that promote data-driven, evidence-based methods for providing inmates with the tools they need to rebuild their lives when released from jail or prison. This will involve efforts to substantially scale up grant programs for reentry, life skills training, and education and employment opportunities to reduce the alarmingly high chance that prisoners will resume a life of crime upon their release. She will also push for federal funding for public-private partnerships that bring private sector firms into prisons and jails, creating connections and training programs that will produce jobs for inmates after their release.

Reinstate The Assault Weapons Ban: Washington needs to stop using the safety of our kids as a political football and finally stand up to the NRA. Kamala would join Senator Dianne Feinstein in the fight to renew the assault weapons ban and pass real background check legislation. Kamala will support efforts to prohibit people on a no-fly list from being allowed to purchase semi-automatic weapons -- it is a matter of national security. And she will challenge the special interest gun lobby to allow the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control to fund studies of gun violence and injury.
Take Down Transnational Criminal Organizations: Under Kamala's direction, the California Department of Justice led efforts to take down numerous transnational criminal organizations, seizing thousands of pounds in drugs and illegal weapons, and destroying criminal organizations that traffic in human beings. Kamala is a national leader in fighting these gangs, securing agreements between California and other countries to coordinate on prosecutions and law enforcement investigations. She led state attorneys general from across the country to Mexico to increase coordination with foreign governments fighting cartels and transnational criminal organizations. In the Senate, she'll fight to ensure federal resources are deployed to take on these real threats to our safety.
Support Local Law Enforcement: Kamala has spent her entire career -- including as California's Top Cop -- working with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. She knows that when terrorists strike in America, it's local police, sheriffs, and firefighters who rush to the scene. Local law enforcement, together with the federal government, serve as the backbone of our nation's domestic defense against terrorist attacks. They are this country's first responders in emergencies and the first line of detection and prevention. As Attorney General, Kamala led a team that developed the first statewide mobile application for law enforcement to access criminal justice information, so officers would have more information at their fingertips when they're on patrol. Kamala firmly believes that protecting our national security and our communities requires making sure that local law enforcement have the resources they need to detect national security threats and coordinate and cooperate with state and federal agencies.
Fight Terrorism & Keep Americans Safe: As a career prosecutor, Kamala understands we live in a dangerous world and there are people, groups and even governments that work to inflict harm on Americans and on our society. Terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda continue to endanger the United States and the entire international community. As Senator, Kamala will support efforts to continue the fight to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS and al Qaeda, while supporting the necessary coalitions around the world to wage this war. Moreover, Kamala believes that we must thwart the ability of governments that actively sponsor terrorism. Kamala will be a strong advocate in the Senate for developing strategies to combat the growing phenomenon of radicalization that occurs online and via social media by terrorist groups.
End Human Trafficking: Kamala has been a national leader in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking networks, which victimize and enslave poor and vulnerable women, girls, and boys. The United States has a moral obligation to combat and end human trafficking at home -- more than 70 percent of human trafficking victims in California were born in the U.S. -- and abroad. Kamala led a group of state attorneys general to Mexico to strengthen cooperation between the two countries to fight the money laundering that enables human trafficking, and she signed a bilateral accord with Mexico to improve coordination of law enforcement resources to target human traffickers. And in the U.S. Senate, she'll continue that work to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking syndicates and be a voice for their victims.
Protect Against Cyber Attacks: Kamala created the largest e-crime unit in the nation and a privacy enforcement and protection unit within the California Attorney General's office. Together these units help focus law enforcement on crimes committed through the use of technology and the protection of consumer privacy online. Her Department of Justice wrote California's first reports on commercial and government data breaches and conducted trainings for California businesses to help them better secure consumer data. Kamala led a delegation of state attorneys general to Mexico to bolster bilateral collaboration on fighting cybercrime. Cyber attacks can harm not just the privacy of individuals, but also the integrity of our systems and vital infrastructure. Computer hacks and breaches thus pose a real threat to public health, safety, and national security. Increasingly, highly sophisticated criminal organizations and state-sponsored entities -- located as far away as Russia, China, and Eastern Europe -- are responsible for breaches. Kamala has been and will continue to be a national leader in finding smart, effective, and efficient ways to protect us, and our allies, from cyber attacks.
21st Century Policing: America's police forces can only be effective if the communities they serve trust them. As Attorney General, Kamala has implemented 21st Century policing practices for the hundreds of law enforcement officers in the California Department of Justice, including: body cameras, clear protocols and standards for handling officer misconduct, and extensive training on use of force, implicit bias, and procedural justice. Under her leadership, the Department of Justice was the first in the nation to create a certified training program for law enforcement specifically designed to stamp out implicit bias. And she modified hiring requirements to ensure a more diverse applicant pool for DOJ special agents and trainees. Kamala believes that all of these reforms should be part of a bold federal effort to help America's law enforcement agencies modernize and cultivate public trust.
Preventing & Reducing Recidivism: It's unacceptable that more than half of all released prisoners are back behind bars within three years. As Attorney General, Kamala created the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Re-entry to focus the California Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies across the state on preventing crime and reducing recidivism--not just fighting crime after the fact. The division works with state and local government agencies, the courts, and communities across the state to promote anti-recidivism programs and efforts. In the Senate, Kamala will champion reform of U.S. Department of Justice grant programs to encourage state and local law enforcement agencies to focus on crime prevention by making smart investments in anti-recidivism programs, like Back On Track -- a successful model she created as San Francisco District Attorney.
Transparency & Accountability In Our Justice System: As Attorney General, Kamala launched a first-in-the-nation criminal justice open data initiative, called OpenJustice, which includes a portal for statewide data for all arrest rates, deaths in custody, and law enforcement officers killed and assaulted in the line of duty. Inserting facts and hard data in the conversation, the unprecedented tool is designed to measure the effectiveness of California's criminal justice system so it can be improved and strengthened. OpenJustice clearly shows deep disparities based on age, race, gender, and other attributes, and brings transparency and accountability to the justice system. As Senator, she would push for this kind of transparency across the country. She will fight for establishing national standards on criminal justice reform metrics and measures so we know what's working and what's not and can make changes accordingly. She will also support efforts to modernize criminal justice data systems at the federal, state and local levels so that we can fix racial and other disparities and build on what we know works.
Supporting Victims of Crime: Since beginning her career prosecuting child sexual assault cases, Kamala has taken a victim-centric approach to the criminal justice system. As Attorney General, Kamala championed new technology to allow California to process rape kits faster and clear a longstanding backlog of rape kits in state crime labs. Throughout her career, she's worked to ensure that survivors have the support they need and that their attackers face swift accountability and consequence for their crimes. From her work on campus sexual assault to cyber exploitation, she has worked with law enforcement partners to ensure that victims of crime are treated with respect and given culturally competent services. She has also worked to ensure that victim advocates are appropriately involved in the system. Kamala knows that justice is only served when victims are comfortable coming forward to report crime. Kamala will carry this approach to the Senate.
Ending Mass Incarceration: For several decades, tough laws and long sentences have created the illusion that public safety is best served when we treat all offenders the same way: arrest, convict, incarcerate, and hope they somehow learn their lesson. As Senator, Kamala would lead efforts to roll back draconian sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenses and encourage innovation across the criminal justice system, working to implement what we already know works to prevent crime. Kamala will also champion the closure of private prisons and detention centers -- mass incarceration should not be incentivized by private gain.
Eliminating Harsh Lifetime Consequences For Non-Violent Drug Offenders: Kamala believes non-violent drug offenders should not have to live with the lifetime consequences of a conviction that prevent them from becoming contributing members of their communities. These lifetime consequences often end up being a drag on our economy by reducing wages and benefits. As Senator, she would champion efforts to expunge certain offenses after seven years of good behavior for individuals who have already served their complete sentence. Kamala will also push for federal "ban the box" legislation, so employers focus on a job applicant's qualifications, not prior convictions. And she will fight to end federal bans on student loans, food stamps, housing, and voting rights for ex-offenders.
Reforming Unreasonable Sentencing Laws: Kamala supports recent efforts in the Senate to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which provides a common sense approach to reform that will keep our communities safe and help millions of Americans rebuild their lives. This bill narrows the scope of mandatory minimum prison sentences to focus on the most serious drug offenders and violent criminals, while establishing new outlets for individuals with minimal criminal histories that may trigger mandatory minimum sentences under current law. The bill also reduces certain mandatory minimums, providing judges with greater discretion to determine appropriate sentences, and preserves cooperation incentives to aid law enforcement in tracking down gang and drug kingpins and other major players in organized crime.