Before Kamala Harris had made her announcement that she was running for president in January 2019, I had not heard of her previously. Do I follow politics? Somewhat. However, I definitely pay more attention now in my adult years than when I was a teen.
From what I heard about her, especially from radio listeners who would call into the New York-based morning radio show, “The Breakfast Club” was that many people didn’t like her because she was a prosecutor and, “she locked up a lot of black people” as callers would put it.
She went on the radio show in July of 2019, and I listened to her interview, but there was something about her that, as much as I wanted to try to like her, I couldn’t. And I couldn’t figure out what it was. So, when she announced she was dropping out of the presidential race in December of the same year, I didn’t think anything of it. Again, there was something about her that didn’t fit well with me.
Fast forward to when Joe Biden announcing that she was his pick for Vice President, she once again made history. I started to look into her. In my search, I found that she had written a book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” knowing my love for books, and especially memoirs, I bought it.
It was a good read, my favorite book, no, but I would recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about her work as a Prosecutor, District Attorney of San Francisco, Attorney General of California, and then-Senator of California. Also, to learn more about her upbringing, which shaped her thoughts and actions.
As District Attorney
With the help of her colleague Tim, when she was district attorney, they created a program called “Back on Track.” The program was to help people who were released from jail with an end goal of them not ending up in jail again. She stated she received backlash from it because she was told, “prosecutors’ job is to put people away and not worry about what happens to them afterward.” But this was not Harris’s approach.
Those who wanted to participate would first have to plead guilty and accept responsibility for their actions. After they completed the program, they would get their charges expunged. The first participants of the program were all nonviolent first-time offenders.
Her reason for this program was to make sure that they would not end up back in jail like the statistics show they would. Within three years from being released, 70% of people would end up committing crimes again.
Participants received their GED, completed community service, helped fathers pay outstanding child support; all participants had to get drug tested throughout the program, which provided job training, therapy, parenting classes, and financial literacy classes.
What was even better about the program was the cost-effectiveness of running it. Harris wrote that the program cost about $5,000 per participant, compared to $100,000 to prosecute a felony case and another $40,000 to house someone in the county jail for a year. This seems like a better use for taxpayers’ money.
As Attorney General of California
As Attorney General of California, she helped homeowners of California during the foreclosure fiasco around the country. The banks’ settlement to California homeowners was 2 to 4 billion dollars, but she pushed and brought it up to 20 billion. She mentions in detail the meeting she had with the banks’ attorney during the whole process.
One particular issue that I found interesting that she focused on was elementary school truancy. She explained that third grade reading proficiency is essential because studies show that up until the point of third-grade, children are being taught to read; after that, they are reading to learn. But if students miss too many days of school before third grade, they are not learning to read, and if they can’t read, they can’t learn.
The domino effect of this was that the data shows that 80% of prisoners were high school dropouts from California’s prisons. Why were they dropping out? Because they were falling behind starting in elementary school from missing too many days. She then focused on figuring out why the kids were missing school and then providing resources to the parents, usually single mothers, to help raise the children’s attendance. Although, this plan did backfire a bit because there were parents who did end up getting arrested for kid’s missing school. Harris has addressed this, in interviews and said that she regretted that happened because that wasn’t her intentions.
Harris spoke about many issues that need to be addressed after that, like immigration, medical drug prices, access to healthcare, professional mental health specialist storage, biases in the healthcare field, and the opioid crisis, which has killed over 350,000 Americans in the last two decades.
She gets personal when speaking about the pain of losing her mother to cancer, which many of us can relate to. #CancerSucks
Overall, it is a good read, and I enjoyed it. Let me know if you’ve read it and what your thoughts are.
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