Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called out Sen. Kamala Harris on her criminal justice record at Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debate.
“Kamala Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and she’ll be a prosecutor president, but I’m deeply concerned about this record,” Gabbard said, referring to Harris’ time as attorney general of California from 2011 to 2017.
Gabbard took Harris to task for flip-flopping on decriminalizing marijuana. The congresswoman from Hawaii pointed out that Harris joked in a recent interview that she smoked weed in college, but the former attorney general also locked up over 1,000 people on marijuana citations.
“There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said.
“She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so,” Gabbard added. “She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep the cash bail system in place. That impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”
Harris fought back, defending her record as a prosecutor and explaining why she’s proud of her work.
“I did the work of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of a state of 40 million people, which became a national model for the work that needs to be done,” she said. “And I am proud of that work.”
Harris added that she’s proud of herself for “actually doing the work” of being in a position where you have to make tough decisions.
The senator from California’s prosecutorial record has been a topic of debate since she threw her hat into the presidential ring. Many have criticized her record for contributing to high rates of incarceration in California.