MSNBC Contributor Questions Harris's Credibility on Criminal Justice

'She's sort of like a burglar saying, hey, let me set up your home security system'

September 9, 2019

MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson on Monday compared Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) proposing a new criminal justice plan to a burglar offering to install home security systems.

"Her attempt to roll out this brand new criminal justice program is one of her ways of saying, 'Hey, I'm coming back into this. I've got something to say, I'm an expert in this area," Johnson said on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "But politically, it's kinda difficult. She's sort of like a burglar saying, 'Hey, let me set up your home security system.'"

Johnson added that since she announced her presidential candidacy, Harris has faced an uphill climb with liberal voters, given her harsh record on crime as California's attorney general.

"Many liberals have said she is a part of the very criminal justice system that she's now saying, 'Hey this is how I'm going to reform it,'" Johnson said. "So, a lot of this is about Senator Harris convincing people that she can initiate the changes she seemed to symbolically represent when she first got into the race."

Harris released a criminal justice reform plan on Monday, focusing on ending mass incarceration and "the war on drugs." The plan advocates legalizing marijuana and banning private prisons, as well as ending cash bail, mandatory sentencing minimums, and the death penalty.

Harris's campaign touted her experience as a criminal prosecutor, saying in a statement that her time "working inside the system" made her uniquely qualified to address "the civil rights issue of our time," according to BuzzFeed News.

Between 2011 and 2016, when Harris was California attorney general, at least 1,560 people were sent to state prisons for marijuana-related offenses. Harris also pressed hard against marijuana legalization and laughed at an opponent who advocated it.

In February, Harris claimed to have smoked marijuana and said that she now supports legalizing it.

The flip drew criticism from many opponents, who said that Harris built her career on such issues. Fellow presidential contender Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) scored a hit on Harris during the July Democratic primary debate when she accused Harris of hypocrisy.

"Senator Harris said she was proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she'll be a prosecutor president, but I'm deeply concerned about this record," Gabbard said. "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."