Radio Atlantic: Kamala Harris, Progressive Prosecutor?

In the era of criminal-justice reform and Black Lives Matter, can a former prosecutor win the Democratic nomination?

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Senator Kamala Harris has drawn criticism for beginning her 2020 campaign by pitching herself as a “progressive prosecutor” despite a more mixed record.

On Radio Atlantic, Alex Wagner sits down with two people who have thought deeply about the power of prosecutors in America: the Georgetown law professor Paul Butler and the New York Times Magazine staff writer Emily Bazelon.

What exactly is Harris’s record? How does race inform the debate about prosecutorial power? And what does it all mean for the broader conversation in 2020 about criminal justice?

Highlights include:

  • Professor Butler describes how, like Harris, he grew up in an activist household in a black neighborhood, yet chose to become a prosecutor. Unlike Harris, though, he had a change of heart about the criminal legal system.

  • Emily Bazelon shares insights from her time with the then–Senate candidate Harris in 2016, as well as from her forthcoming book, Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration.

  • Both address the balance Harris has struck in pursuing a political career that few other women of color have ever had. Professor Butler shares what, if anything, Harris should have done differently.