Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday that if elected President, she would go further than former President Barack Obama in using her powers to pardon non-violent drug offenders.
During the She the People Presidential candidate forum in Houston, Harris was asked whether she would do more than Obama to release federal prisoners who are incarcerated for drug possession and drug-related crimes.
“Well, we certainly have seen this president do nothing about it except try to pardon his friends, so let’s start there. But absolutely,” Harris said, referring to President Donald Trump. “We have to have the courage to recognize that there are a lot of folks who have been incarcerated who should not have been incarcerated and are still in prison.
She continued: “They were convicted under Draconian laws that have incarcerated them for in some cases, a lifetime based on what is essentially a public health issue. So yes, I would.”
On his last full day in office, Obama commuted 330 prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders. That brought his total number of clemencies while in office to a total of 1,715. At the time, some activists said they had hoped he would grant early release to a larger number of inmates who are in prison for non-violent offenses.
Harris did not elaborate on how she would choose which non-violent offenders she would pardon, or how she would use the powers more broadly. Her campaign had no further information about the proposed policy on Wednesday.
Fellow 2020 Democratic candidate Andrew Yang said at a recent forum that he would legalize marijuana “and then I would pardon everyone who’s in jail for a nonviolent drug-related offense.”
“I would pardon them on April 20, 2021 and I would high-five them on the way out of jail,” Yang said at the National Action Network conference earlier this month.
CNN’s Alison Main and Greg Krieg contributed to this report.