Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the target of an oppo dump on Friday, when a BuzzFeed story claiming she treats her employees so poorly that some of them are regularly left in tears was published. The story overshadowed Klobuchar’s POTUS campaign announcement, and there was some speculation (well, here at RedState at least) that Sen. Kamala Harris was behind it.
Turnabout is fair play, judging by a Daily Beast article published Monday stating that while Attorney General of California Harris kept non-violent offenders who were otherwise eligible for early release prison because the state needed the cheap labor in fire camps.
Here’s the back story. In 2011 the United States Supreme Court ruled in a class-action suit brought by inmates that severe overcrowding in California’s state prisons was tantamount to “cruel and unusual punishment” and ordered the state to reduce its prison population.
By early 2014 the state hadn’t met the population reduction targets, prompting the Plaintiffs to ask the Court to enforce the order, and in February 2014 the state was ordered to “immediately implement specific population reduction measures” that amounted to granting early release to non-violent second offenders and certain minimum-security inmates.
Still the state was non-compliant, and in November 2014 was ordered to create and begin operating “a new parole determination process through which non-violent second strikers will be eligible for parole consideration by the Board of Parole Hearings once they have served 50 percent of their sentence,” by January 2015, as they had been ordered to do “promptly” in the February 2014 order.
What was the holdup? The L.A. Times reported that:
“Most of those prisoners now work as groundskeepers, janitors and in prison kitchens, with wages that range from 8 cents to 37 cents per hour. Lawyers for Attorney General Kamala Harris had argued in court that if forced to release these inmates early, prisons would lose an important labor pool.”
The AG’s office tried to play the fire safety card too, arguing in a brief that:
“Extending 2-for-1 credits to all minimum custody inmates at this time would severely impact fire camp participation—a dangerous outcome while California is in the middle of a difficult fire season and severe drought.”
When approached by BuzzFeed News two months later, Kamala played dumb.
“I will be very candid with you, because I saw that article this morning, and I was shocked, and I’m looking into it to see if the way it was characterized in the paper is actually how it occurred in court,” Harris told BuzzFeed News in an interview Monday. “I was very troubled by what I read. I just need to find out what did we actually say in court.”
As anyone who attends court hearings knows, it doesn’t really matter what they said in court; what matters is what the pleadings say. And, in such an important case, why wouldn’t Kamala be aware of what position her deputies are taking? The way she grilled Brett Kavanaugh about emails and conversations and things people in his office had said over numerous years, one would believe that Kamala held herself to the same standard.
In response to a question from reporters last week, Harris’ campaign spokesman replied:
“As she said at the time, Senator Harris was shocked and troubled by the use of this argument. She looked into it and directed the department’s attorneys not to make that argument again.”
The spokesman also claimed Harris was responsible, through her office, for a subsequent settlement between the parties that “expanded the use of 2-for-1 credits.” Ah, so that’s how it goes: When it’s an argument that doesn’t sit well with her political base she didn’t know anything about it, but when there’s a settlement letting more people out of prison, she gets credit for what her office did.
Daily Beast’s article also contains quotes from numerous justice reform advocates who are a little peeved at Harris’ penchant for claiming credit for things she was, at best, tangentially involved in, and who believe she was “late to the party” on the issue, hinting that this article is just the beginning of a thorough examination of court pleadings filed by Harris’ office while she was Attorney General and her actions as San Francisco District Attorney.
This is gonna be good.