Criminal and racial justice groups are pushing back against Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff’s pitch for the job of California Attorney General, citing his record of being “not only supportive of, but deeply invested in, creating our current system of incarceration,” reports The Intercept. The letter cited Schiff’s record authoring and supporting legislation that would have grown the system of mass incarceration and increased the criminalization of poverty, both as a California state senator from 1996 to 2001 and as a U.S. representative since 2001.
Schiff authored legislation to create the Department of Juvenile Justice to administer prisons for kids; establish “boot camps” for kids who committed certain offenses during school time; make it easier to terminate parental rights for children who were wards of the court; and allow kids age 14 years and up who are “truant or disobedient” and wards of the court to be punished by being held in a secure facility when they aren’t in school. Schiff also authored bills that would have made it easier to try as adults kids age 14 years or older accused of serious crimes and for the Los Angeles district attorney to prosecute minors.
Other measures Schiff introduced would have allowed the fingerprints of minors who had been arrested to be entered into a federal database and would have increased funding for the federal Community Oriented Policing Services program to fund construction of jails and expand funding for law enforcement agencies and district attorneys.
After nationwide protests against police brutality last summer, voters in California sent a clear message that they want a new approach to criminal justice and systemic racism and, over the last decade, California has been a national leader in efforts to reduce mass incarceration, after the Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce its prison population. Schiff’s recent support for the Thin Blue Line and Protect and Serve acts helped to feed a right-wing narrative that Black Lives Matter and police accountability movements are “somehow lawless and police-hating,” said Jody Armour, a signatory on the letter and the Roy P. Crocker professor of law at the University of Southern California.
“It’s, in other words, a dog whistle that he was contributing to. To put someone like that in this position at this time would be surprising to me. It would be surprisingly politically tone-deaf.”