At the time, then, taking action like jailing mothers for their children’s truancy – school dropouts were often scapegoated as budding delinquents and criminals, with education being the only exit ramp from a depraved life – or prosecuting sex workers in a misguided attempt to protect women from trafficking were seen by the public as being reasonable approaches to crime prevention.
But that era has ended, and not with the perfectly safe society envisioned by the politicians that advocated for a tough approach on law and order. Instead, we got private companies profiting wildly from our prison system, as prisoners and their families are charged exorbitantly for reading books, calling loved ones, or even visitation. Companies who use underpaid prisoner labor face boycotts and backlashes. Controversies about the militarization of our cities’ police forces continue to grow. And polls suggest a growing number of voters care deeply about making real changes to this system.
With a growing prison abolition movement on the left, with some of its ideas and figures gaining mainstream attention, Harris’s record looks more punitive than protective, and she had not adequately addressed things like the times when her office fought to keep people behind bars even when their convictions were overturned or lab work was revealed to be inaccurate. Every few months there seems to be a new documentary series on an innocent man imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit showing up on Netflix. Her record seems to hold as many landmines as goldmines.