On Wednesday, Kim Kardashian visited the White House, reportedly to try and get a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a great-grandmother serving a life sentence for her role in a multimillion-dollar drug ring.
She was pictured heading to the West Wing wearing a black pantsuit with neon yellow heels. Vanity Fair reports that Kardashian, who’s visiting the White House with attorney Shawn Chapman Holley, will meet with Jared Kushner before sitting down with President Trump.
Happy Birthday Alice Marie Johnson. Today is for you ✨
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 30, 2018
According to Mic, Kardashian has spoken to White House adviser Jared Kushner several times in an attempt to prioritize the 63-year-old’s case, since viewing a video on the publisher’s website featuring the woman and tweeting it to her 60 million followers.
“Kim asked me several weeks ago how she could help Alice Johnson in her fight for justice. We then began corresponding with Alice and her team of lawyers,” Los Angeles-based lawyer Holley told the New York Daily News in November. Since then, Kardashian has also championed Cyntoia Brown‘s cause. Brown is a 29-year-old woman from Nashville who is serving a life sentence for murdering a male client when she was 16 after she was forced into prostitution.
Johnson has been imprisoned for 21 years since she was found guilty of drug conspiracy and money laundering in 1997, according to a 2013 profile by Mic. The single mother of four is from Olive Branch, Miss., and first got pregnant at age 15. She divorced her husband in 1989 and developed a gambling addiction, which resulted in the loss of her 10-year career at FedEx. She filed for bankruptcy and her home was foreclosed on, and one year later, in 1992, her son was killed while riding a scooter.
Alice Marie Johnson has been in prison for 21 years for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. pic.twitter.com/VFe29D2ve8
— Mic (@mic) October 23, 2017
Johnson then became involved in drug dealing, specifically engaging with a multimillion-dollar organization that carried cocaine from Memphis. According to Mic, during the trial, Johnson’s partners plotted against her, despite her minimal role (she alleges that she never sold drugs but rather assisted with communications in the organization), resulting in her life sentence at Aliceville Correctional Facility in Alabama without parole, plus 25 years.
According to a Change.org petition called Grant Clemency to Alice Marie Johnson Serving a Life Sentence launched by one of her children and signed by almost 209,000 supporters, Johnson has led an exemplary life in prison, mentoring other inmates and becoming an ordained minister. She has even given Skype interviews with Yale University and Google.
“She has been in prison 21 years and will die there unless President Trump grants her clemency,” reads the petition.
And while Johnson has earned the support of multiple Democrats, she was not among the 231 people President Obama pardoned for drug-related crimes in late 2016. “When the criteria came out for clemency [under President Obama], I thought for sure — in fact, I was certain that I’d met and exceeded all of the criteria,” Johnson said in a 2017 video produced by Mic. “I had 100 percent clear conduct for the entire time, my entire time in prison, no disciplinary infractions. I am a true first-time nonviolent offender.”
She added, “One of my family members one time, and I’ll never forget this, they said that coming to visit me in prison is like visiting a gravesite. They said that they can see the place where my body lay, but they could never take me home again.”
Currently, 39 percent of the prison population is incarcerated despite those inmates posing minor risk to the public, according to a report called How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated? by Time. That is in part because they’re nonviolent offenders who would benefit from various rehabilitative treatments — in other words, they could be more appropriately sentenced to an alternative to prison or a shorter prison stay, with limited impact on public safety. “Releasing these inmates would save $20 billion annually, enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers,” says Time, which referenced a 2011 ProPublica report finding white inmates are four times more likely than minorities to get pardoned.
According to TMZ, Johnson has responded to Kardashian’s gesture with a heartfelt letter, writing that when she learned the identity of her campaigner, “I had to take time to process and digest the news that you were the one she had been alluding to. There are no words strong enough to express my deep and heartfelt gratitude.”
The great-grandmother added: “Ms. Kardashian, you are literally helping to save my life and restore me to my family. I was drowning and you have thrown me a life jacket. … I believe that history will record that Kim Kardashian had the courage to take a stand against human warehousing and was a key figure in meaningful criminal justice reform becoming a reality.”
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