Opinion: Kim Kardashian West is leading the way to shortening prison sentences
Kim Kardashian West is no stranger to publicity, but recently, she found herself in the spotlight for her fight to reform criminal justice in America.
Kardashian West has proven a good advocate for justice reform, as she campaigns for the release of several individuals serving prison terms that are longer than necessary.
She recognized that individuals were being sentenced more severely than they should be, especially when compared to sentences for other more harmful crimes.
According to the New York Times, President Donald Trump ended Alice Marie Johnson’s prison sentence after Kardashian West pleaded Johnson’s case with him.
Johnson was imprisoned for life in 1996 on non-violent drug possession and money
Kardashian West first heard Johnson’s story from a video that went viral on social media. According to a CNN article, Kardashian West’s first step was to call Ivanka Trump and appeal to her compassion for a woman who had already paid her dues. Ivanka Trump connected Kardashian West to her husband, Jared Kushner, who then connected Kardashian West to the president.
Kardashian West met with both Kushner and President Trump in the White House to advocate for Johnson just prior to the president commuting Johnson’s sentence.
Although many might roll their eyes at the thought of the celebrity fighting for justice reform or mutter darkly about undeserved influence, Kardashian West, daughter of O. J. Simpson’s lawyer, Robert Kardashian, probably knows the justice system better than many Americans.
Between her own fame, her husband Kanye West’s support of President Trump and the relationship she has with Ivanka Trump and Kushner, Kardashian West is in a prime position to advocate for those
Kardashian West has also advocated for others who have been imprisoned for longer than their crime should deserve. According to a Fox News article, one of those is Matthew Charles, a man sentenced to 35 years in prison for selling drugs to an informant. He was released after 21 years and got a job, only to find out that his release was a mistake. He was imprisoned again.
Charles’ story, like Johnson’s, showcases some of the absurdly long prison sentences attached to nonviolent drug related crimes.
According to the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation website, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 requires a minimum of five to 10 years in prison for crimes involving different kinds of drugs and drug amounts.
So, depending on the drug involved, a defendant could face at least 10 years in prison, just for possessing the drug. Any related crimes only increase the sentence.
To put that in context, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the minimum sentence for production of child pornography is 10 years.
So, in the U.S. Justice System, five kilograms of cocaine earns you the same prison sentence as the production of child pornography.
The problem is, possession of a drug generally only harms the person using the drug, while production of child pornography victimizes the children involved and corrupts the viewer.
Although not all of the cases Kardashian West champions are as absurd, Charles and Johnson’s stories point to flaws in the justice system. America’s justice system has occasionally sent people to prison for longer than their crimes deserved. A man was let out of prison only to be imprisoned again after he started rebuilding his life. There is no room for grace in current criminal justice laws.
Not that the U.S. justice system as a whole is broken, but it is not perfect. Kardashian West is using her considerable influence to advocate for the people affected by its flaws.