After cancelling perhaps one of the most historical international meetings of our time, President Trump turns his attention back home.
And the first issue on his mind is a topic that is very important to prison loved ones: prison reform. But, he met with Kim Kardashian to get the job done?
Seriously? No way.
2 Reality Show Stars Meet to Solve the Nations Prison Reform Issues
Naturally, President Trump approached the issue of prison reform with the due diligence we would expect from our executive office. He called upon experts in the field, people informed on the topic of prison reform and the state.
If only! Donald Trump is our president, after all. His “expert” was Kim Kardashian-West.
Kim K’s trip to the White House lasted about an hour starting at 4:45 p.m. on May 30th.
But in contrast to media reports, it wasn’t really related to prison reform. Well… not actually.
Why Did Kim K. Invade the White House?
In a statement on Wednesday night, Kardashian expressed her desire for the President to grant clemency to Ms. Alice Marie Johnson, a woman imprisoned for life on a first-time non-violent drug offense.
Kim’s first commentary on Johnson’s story came in late 2017 in the form of a tweet that linked to Alice Marie Johnson’s interview at Mic.com. And indeed, it is hard not to feel compassionate to her story.
Obama Administration DID Advocate for the Release of Alice Marie Johnson
After the Obama Administration launched the Clemency Project, CAN-DO, a nonprofit foundation that advocates Clemency for All Non-violent Drug Offenders, advocated for clemency for Alice Marie Johnson.
At 62 years old, Johnson has served 22 years of her life sentence in prison.
The Story of Alice Marie Johnson… Life Without Parole
After losing her managerial position at 40 years old, she found herself seeking some way to make money to help support her family. So rather than let her family starve, she made the mistake of seeking quick money.
As a first-time offender, she was charged with:
- Attempted drug conspiracy
- Attempted possession of cocaine
- Money laundering
Since her incarceration, Johnson has served as a “role model inmate.” And though she admits her guilt, she still feels she has:
“so much life in [her]…so much left to give.”
Changes That Need to Be Made in the Justice System
Now perhaps Kim Kardashian is not the most qualified to speak with the President on prison reform. But it is certainly a topic that needs to be broached.
Given the political situation and overt racism driving our country, it should come as no surprise that people of color are incarcerated far more frequently than white people. And drug offenses in state prisons are no exception to this rule.
According to The Sentencing Project, a non-profit organization devoted to providing accurate information on disparity in the justice system:
“…two-thirds of persons incarcerated for a drug offense in state prisons are African American or Latino” (Marc Mauer).
Low Income Bias
Additionally, low-income communities of color are often targeted for drug law violations. Whereas substance abuse in communities with more substantial resources tend to be left to treated as a “family or public health problem.”
The Justice System: Black VS White
Unfortunately, one 2005-2012 study performed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that on average, Federal judges tend to place higher sentences on Black people than they do white people (William Rhodes, Ph.D. Ryan Kling, M.A. Jeremy Luallen, Ph.D. Christina Dyous, M.A.).
In other words, how severely two people are punished for the same crime can be determined by what color of skin you are born with in life. So not only are you more likely to be put before a judge as a person of color, but you are also more likely to be punished more severely as one.
Ms. Alice Marie Johnson finds herself among a group of 3,278 people serving a life sentence without parole for a non-violent offenses. Of those 3,278 individuals:
- 79% are drug offenders
- 65% are Black
Even if her freedom must come from a Kardashian trip to the Oval Office, that will be a welcome gesture toward helping fix a broken system fueled by mass incarceration.
N. L. Sweeney is an English Creative Writing graduate from Western Washington University. His work has been published by Flash Fiction Magazine, Niteblade, Defenestration Magazine, Jeopardy Magazine and Inroads: Writers in the Community. He currently writes editorials and feature news pieces for Prison Rideshare Network. When Sweeney’s not writing, he busies himself with petting furry animals, learning Chinese and making friends in local tea shops.