Tulsi Gabbard slams Democratic presidential rival Kamala Harris over criminal justice

Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard

Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard has sought an apology from her fellow party lawmaker, Indian-American Senator Kamala Harris, alleging that people “suffered” when she was the attorney general of California.

Both Gabbard, 38, and Harris, 54, who are popular among Indian-Americans, appeared on the same stage in Detroit on Wednesday (31) at CNN’s Democratic presidential debate.

Trailing far behind Harris in current opinion polls, Gabbard — the first Hindu to ever run for the presidency of the United States was aggressive in attacking the Senator from California on the criminal justice system.

“The bottom line is, Senator Harris, when you were in a position to make a decision and an impact in these people’s lives you did not and worse yet, in the case of those who are on death row, innocent people you actually blocked evidence from being revealed that would have freed them until you were forced to do so,” Gabbard said amidst applause from the audience.

“There is no excuse for that. And the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor you owe them an apology,” she said.

Kamala Harris. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

Harris was quick to defend her record as attorney general of California.

“As the elected attorney general of California, I did the work of significantly reforming the criminal justice system of a state of 40 million people which became a national model for the work that needs to be done,” she said.

The Indian-American Senator said she was proud of her work in California.

“I am proud of making a decision…to reform a system that is badly in need of reform. That is why we created initiatives that were about re-entering former offenders and getting them counselling,” she said.

During the debate, Gabbard also alleged that Harris “kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labour” for California. She also said the Senator “fought to keep the trash bail system in place” that impacts poor people in the “worst kind of way”.

Defending her actions as attorney general, Harris said, “My entire career I have been opposed, personally opposed to the death penalty and that has never changed. And I dare anybody who is in a position to make that decision to face the people I have faced to say, I will not seek the death penalty.”

“When I was in the position on having to decide whether or not to seek a death penalty on cases I prosecuted I made a very difficult decision that was not popular–to not seek the death penalty…and I am proud of those decisions,” she asserted.