A redesign of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website will make it harder for voters to inspect Sen. Kamala Harris's controversial record as the state's top cop.
The department removed public access to a number of reports on incarceration in the state, including when presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D.) was California's attorney general. Twice a year, the CDCR releases information about the number of new individuals incarcerated in the California prison system as part of its "Offender Data Points" series. These reports provide important information on demographics, sentence length, offense type, and other figures relevant to criminal justice and incarceration.
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Until recently, these reports were publicly available at the CDCR's website. A search using archive.org's Wayback Machine reveals that as of April 25, 2019—the most recent indexed date—ODP reports were available dating back to the spring of 2009. As of August 2019, the same web page now serves only a single ODP report, the one for Spring 2019. The pre-2019 reports have been removed.
The changes matter in part because the reports contain information about Harris's entire time as state A.G., 2011 to 2017. Harris has taken fire from multiple opponents for her "tough on crime" record as California's top cop, an image that she has tried to shed as a far-left senator and presidential candidate.
One particularly brutal attack came Wednesday night when Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hi.) laid into Harris for her record on criminal justice. Gabbard cited a Washington Free Beacon analysis — based in part on the ODP reports — that found that more than 1,500 Californians were sent to prison for marijuana-related offenses while Harris was attorney general.
The data have been used in other Free Beacon reporting on Harris, specifically the finding that more than 120,000 black and Latino Californians were sent to prison while she was in the State A.G.'s office.
While the change is beneficial for Harris, a CDCR representative said the changes were unrelated to her campaign, and were prompted by AB 434, a California law setting standards for web accessibility.
"Making our website fully compliant was a significant and ongoing undertaking. It required a redesign of the look and feel of the website, and a need to evaluate all of the thousands of documents and other files that were linked to our website," Jeffrey Callison, CDCR assistant secretary for communications, told the Free Beacon.
He said the older reports are still publicly accessible and that some information was only temporarily removed.
"While many documents that are not accessible can be remediated, it is a significant use of resources to do it across the board. Some older documents have been removed from our website but are still available upon request; others are temporarily removed while they are being remediated; and many others have already been remediated and are on our website," he said.
Callison added that the documents are still available upon request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.