Democratic presidential hopeful Kamala Harris will skip an upcoming South Carolina forum at Benedict College after the organizers honored President Donald Trump with an award for his work on criminal justice reform.
President Trump received the Bipartisan Justice Award for his efforts to pass the First Step Act, which allows thousands of nonviolent offenders to gain early release from federal prison.
Harris was slated to speak Saturday, Oct. 26, at the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum. However, Harris, who was a supporter of the First Step Act, objected to the group’s decision to give the president the award.
“Not only does he circumvent the laws of our country and the principles of our Constitution, but there is nothing in his career that is about justice, for justice, or in celebration of justice,” she said in a statement.
“Today, when it became clear Donald Trump would receive an award after decades of celebrating mass incarceration, pushing the death penalty for innocent black Americans, rolling back police accountability measures, and racist behavior that puts people’s lives at risk … I cannot in good faith be complicit in papering over his record,” she added.
She also decried that only a handful of students at Benedict College, a historically black college in Columbia were admitted. Harris instead will host students from around Columbia for a criminal justice roundtable.
As district attorney and later attorney general, Harris has drawn sharp criticism for her own record on criminal justice reform, which is truly mixed. She pushed for programs that reduce the number of people in prison, but also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proved innocent. She defended California’s death penalty system in court but refused to pursue the capital punishment against a man who killed a police officer.
In September, for her run to the White House Harris released a criminal justice reform plan that includes legalizing marijuana. A recent Fox News Poll indicated only 5 percent of respondents who favor Harris to be Democratic presidential nominee.