Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West have thrown Twitter for a loop the last couple weeks as Kanye has spoken out about his support of Trump and Kim made a trip to DC. Keeping Up with the Kardashians has always been my guilty pleasure, but one thing I admire about Kim and Kanye is that they are perfect examples of celebrities using the platform they’ve been given to advocate for what they stand for in an efficient, real way. It looks like they won’t be stopping any time soon. 

Yesterday, pop culture and beauty icon Kim Kardashian West made a visit to the White House and met with President Trump. She met with the President to discuss prison reform. Kardashian West is advocating for a pardon on behalf of Alice Marie Johnson. Johnson is a 63-year old woman who was incarcerated in 1996. According to BBC, she was sentenced to life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, having to do with making phone calls for a dealer. She since has been a “model inmate.” Kardashian saw a video tweeted by MIC, and quoted it, saying “This is so unfair…”. She asked her personal legal team to take a look at the case and build a new legal team for Johnson. Kardashian West also got in contact with one of President Trump’s senior advisors, Jared Kushner, who is a big supporter of prison reform. In fact, she has been working with him for several months. Kardashian West is asking President Trump to pardon Johnson because she believes there is no plausible reason she should spend the rest of her life in prison.

Kardashian West’s case is just one of many that is capturing the country’s attention. Earlier last week a story from Nashville Public Radio went viral about a man named Matthew Charles. Also in 1996, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison for being a crack dealer. He was an upstanding inmate who in 21 years of incarceration did not have a single disciplinary infraction, got a college education, helped educate others, and counseled other inmates. Due to the reform in guidelines, his sentence was shortened. He was released in 2016. Since his release in 2016, he has built a new life for himself with a job, a girlfriend, and volunteering in his community. In early 2018, a court ruled that there was an “error” in his early release and decided he must serve out the rest of his sentence in prison.

Here, we have a man and a woman who show that often our prison system is not about creating better citizens and teaching lessons, but prison is a place people go and can be forgotten. Kim Kardashian West is starting to shed light on this problem in our judicial system, and I think her leadership will help grow interest in much needed prison reform.

In addition to absurdly long incarceration of those with good behavior and that show growth as an individual, there are holes in who gets convicted at all. In 40 states and in DC, there are Good Samaritan laws that encourage users to call for emergency help if they believe they may overdose. These laws allow them to get help without fear of prosecution. The contrast of these laws to the laws keeping Matthew Charles and Alice Marie Johnson in prison is stark and contradicting. It is my hope that Kim Kardashian West continues to draw attention to prison and sentencing reform so that we can continue to encourage our representatives to look at who is in our nation’s jails, who does and doesn’t deserve to be there, and what should and should not be prosecuted.

LAUREN S
CABINET