Kamala Harris defends criminal justice record during debate

HOUSTON -- Senator Kamala Harris vocally defended her criminal justice record during Thursday's Democratic presidential debate in Houston.

The California senator has taken flak since beginning her campaign for what some activists have described as an insufficiently progressive record during her prosecutorial career, culminating with service as the state's attorney general. But Harris has since rolled out a detailed criminal justice reform proposal, including the elimination of federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders-- a policy blamed for increasing mass incarceration.

Harris said on Thursday that, as she became a prosecutor, "I made a decision that if I was going to have the ability to reform the system, I would try to reform it from the inside."

She said she was "absolutely not" able to do enough at the time. She continued, "But my plan has been described by activists as being a bold and comprehensive plan that is about ending mass incarceration, about taking the profit out of the criminal justice system."

Harris said she plans on shutting down for-profit prisons on "day one" and that her plan is to make sure "that in America's criminal justice system, we de-incarcerate women and children, that we end solitary confinement and that we work on keeping families intact."
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