Perhaps the biggest takeaway from either night of last week’s Democratic presidential debate was Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) shock attack on Sen. Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) prosecution record during her tenure as California’s Attorney General.
Gabbard stated that Harris’ criminal prosecution record was concerning. Specifically Gabbard noted:
She put over 1500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she’d ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California. And she fought to keep the cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.
Rather than defending her record after the humiliating takedown, Harris who is/was a top tier candidate prior to the debate, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, “Well, I mean, listen, this is going to sound immodest, but I’m obviously a top tier candidate. So, I did expect that I would be on the stage and take hits tonight because there are a lot of people who are trying to make the stage for the next debate. Especially when people are at zero or one percent or whatever she might be at.”
Naturally, voters are curious to dig into Harris’ records to find out for themselves if Gabbard’s allegations are accurate. But they will have difficulty finding that information.
As recently as April 25, 2019, ten years of arrest data was easily accessible on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) website. However, a “redesign” has conveniently eliminated all arrest records from the website prior to Spring 2019.
The Washington Free Beacon’s Charles Fain Lehman reports:
The department removed public access to a number of reports on incarceration in the state, including when presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D.) was California’s attorney general. Twice a year, the CDCR releases information about the number of new individuals incarcerated in the California prison system as part of its “Offender Data Points” series. These reports provide important information on demographics, sentence length, offense type, and other figures relevant to criminal justice and incarceration.
Until recently, these reports were publicly available at the CDCR’s website. A search using archive.org’s Wayback Machine reveals that as of April 25, 2019—the most recent indexed date—ODP reports were available dating back to the spring of 2009. As of August 2019, the same web page now serves only a single ODP report, the one for Spring 2019. The pre-2019 reports have been removed.
The changes matter because the reports contain information about Harris’s entire time as state A.G., 2011 to 2017.
Lehman spoke to Jeffrey Callison, CDCR’s assistant secretary for communications, who said, “the changes were unrelated to her campaign, and were prompted by AB 434, a California law setting standards for web accessibility.”
Callison told Lehman:
Making our website fully compliant was a significant and ongoing undertaking. It required a redesign of the look and feel of the website, and a need to evaluate all of the thousands of documents and other files that were linked to our website.
He said the older reports are still publicly accessible and that some information was only temporarily removed.
While many documents that are not accessible can be remediated, it is a significant use of resources to do it across the board. Some older documents have been removed from our website but are still available upon request; others are temporarily removed while they are being remediated; and many others have already been remediated and are on our website.