After reports recently surfaced that Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom was being lobbied to appoint Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA 28) as California’s next Attorney General, some of the most prominent criminal justice reform advocates in the state banded together to express their “strong opposition.”
Current Attorney General Xavier Becerra is expected to vacate the position if he is confirmed to serve in President Joe Biden’s Cabinet as secretary of Health and Human Services.
Axios reported that “Schiff is quietly lobbying” Newsom and the governor’s allies, citing “people familiar with the matter.” According to the outlet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) “has given her approval to Schiff’s bid,” adding, the AG job “would better position Schiff…to run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat, should the 87-year-old decide not to run for reelection in 2024.”
The Reimagine Justice California Coalition, which includes Los Angeles-based Black Lives Matter leaders Patrisse Cullors, Melina Abdullah, and dozens of allied progressive activist groups, co-signed an open letter to Newsom dated February 1 scrutinizing Schiff’s record.
We are proud to join this letter calling on @CAgovernor
to not appoint Adam Schiff as our next Attorney General.
— Sunrise Movement LA 🌄 (@SunriseMvmtLA) February 2, 2021
“When Adam Schiff was a member of the California legislature, he was not only supportive of, but deeply invested in, creating our current system of incarceration,” the letter reads. “This system of incarceration has continued to devastate communities of color and continues to take resources away from our schools, cities, and from all Californians in need.”
Schiff was elected to the California State Senate in 1996, four years before moving on to the U.S. Congress. The letter includes a litany of decades-old bills attributed to Schiff, along with a brief breakdown of the alleged negative consequences those measures had on society after passage. It suggests that Schiff’s policies helped increase the state’s prison population, make more people homeless, and are partly responsible for leaving some rural areas of the Golden State without access to clean water.
“In his single term of four years, Adam Schiff made increased incarceration and punishment for poor parents the focus of his legislative agenda,” it said. “He was not merely a ‘yes’ vote on bad legislation, he was the author of so many bills that were aimed directly at poor people, Black people, and people of color.”
“One person alone is not responsible for California’s incarceration crisis. But Schiff stands out for his extreme punitiveness, particularly against children. Moreover, as a former federal prosecutor, Schiff knew exactly what the consequences of his actions would be; he cannot plead ignorance.”
Other co-signers include USC law professor Jody D. Armour, who is also a Soros Justice Senior Fellow of The Open Society Institute’s Center on Crime, Communities and Culture; Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project; and White People 4 Black Lives co-founder Dahlia Ferlito.
I am very happy to sign on to this letter to @GavinNewsom with criminal justice leaders and community organizations voicing our opposition to the appointment of Adam Schiff for California Attorney General.
— Jody David Armour (@NiggaTheory) February 2, 2021
More from the letter:
We know that many Democratic politicians in the 1990’s and 2000’s espoused a “tough on crime” platform. However, even President Biden, one such politician, campaigned on ending the federal death sentence and acknowledged that his prior tough on crime policies were a mistake.
In contrast, Schiff has continued to support legislation that would expand the size and scope of our system of incarceration, including voting recently to expand the federal death penalty, legislation that was part of a right wing narrative against Black Lives Matter and calls across the United States for police accountability.
It concludes by telling Gov. Newsom that California needs “an Attorney General who will hold police officers and police departments accountable, not one who has spent his legislative career serving their interests.”
“We are still dealing with the legacy of Adam Schiff in California,” it continues. “We urge you in the strongest possible terms not to appoint Adam Schiff to be California’s next Attorney General.”
The letter went on to encourage Newsom “to gain our trust and support by appointing someone who has worked throughout their career to uplift the people of California, not someone who has used their power to punish Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, and poor Californians in a system marked by extreme racial and class disparities.”
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