Or, was she possibly a Republican at that time, DF??
Kamala Harris’ A.G. Office Tried to Keep Inmates Locked Up for Cheap Labor
Lawyers for California also argued that allowing certain inmates to be paroled early would deplete a program that allowed prisons to fight wildfires.
Ordered to reduce the population of California’s overcrowded prisons, lawyers from then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office made the case that some non-violent offenders needed to stay incarcerated or else the prison system would lose a source of cheap labor.
In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Plata that California’s prisons were so overcrowded that they violated the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Three years later, in early 2014, the state was ordered to allow non-violent, second time offenders who have served half of their sentence to be eligible for parole.
By September 2014, plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit were back in court, accusing California of slow-walking the process, which lawyers for Harris’ office denied.
According to court filings, lawyers for the state said California met benchmarks, and argued that if certain potential parolees were given a faster track out of prison, it would negatively affect the prison’s labor programs, including one that allowed certain inmates to fight California’s wildfires for about $2 a day.
“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,” lawyers for Harris wrote in the filing, noting that the fire camp program required physical fitness in addition to a level of clearance that allowed the felon to be offsite.
Not only that, they noted, draining the prisons of “minimum custody inmates” would deplete the labor force both internally and in local communities where low-level, non-violent offenders worked for pennies on the dollar collecting trash and tending to city parks. A federal three-judge panel ordered both sides to confer about the plaintiffs’ demands, and the state agreed to extend the 2-for-1 credits to all eligible minimum security prisoners.
“Once we ridiculed and flagged them for that, they changed their tune, but that was their initial response,” Donald Specter, executive director of the Prison Law Office and lead counsel on Brown v. Plata, said.
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