James Rufus Koren, Staff Writer
Posted: 09/25/2010 07:00:17 PM PDT

Kamala Harris, the Democratic candidate for state attorney general, touted her experience in linking education and crime prevention during a town hall meeting in San Bernardino on Saturday afternoon.

Harris’ comments and audience questions alike focused mostly on the work she’s done as San Francisco’s district attorney to keep first-time offenders from going back to prison.

“The criminal justice system is costing (the state) a lot and I don’t think we’re seeing the return on that investment,” she said, citing California’s high recidivism rate. “We need to focus our resources on those coming out.”

Harris, who has served as district attorney of San Francisco County since 2004, told more than 70 people gathered at Inghram Community Center that the criminal justice system shouldn’t soften consequences for criminals, but at the same time said the system should focus on prevention and early intervention.

She touted a program she started, called Back on Track, that puts nonviolent, low-level drug offenders between the ages of 18 and 24 into job training and education programs.

Though Saturday’s town hall was sponsored by the NAACP chapters of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, audience members asked few questions about civil rights issues, steering more toward education, crime prevention and crime intervention. Hardy Brown, publisher of the Black Voice News, a co-sponsor of the event, said that didn’t surprise him.

“We’ve very concerned with prevention and intervention programs for our young people,” he said.

Brown said too many young men and woman have been “locked up and they’ve thrown away the key,” which makes it hard to turn around communities.

Harris also took questions about her position on California’s “three-strikes” law – she didn’t take a firm stance on if she would push to change the law as attorney general – and on Proposition 8, the state’s gay marriage ban – she said she opposed it.

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