On Wednesday, May 30, 2018, Kim Kardashian West was photographed walking into the White House, clad in a businesslike tenue of black. The reality television star and mother of three had come to champion the cause of Alice Marie Johnson.
In 1996, Memphis native Alice Marie Johnson was sentenced to a lifetime sentence in federal prison for nonviolent possession and distribution of drugs. A single mother of five in Memphis during the 80s and 90s, Johnson was subject to the racial and financial disparities of the South, eventually turning to drugs as a means of supporting her family. Activists have been lobbying for jail sentences that are proportional to the crime committed for decades. They argue that systematic racism creates a disproportionate number of black and Hispanic inmates. Many have similar stories to that of Alice Marie Johnson’s.
The presence of Kim K in the White House caused an immediate uproar, with reactions ranging from praise to dismissiveness. “She shouldn’t be here talking prison reform. It’s very nice that she is here, but that’s not a serious thing to have happened here at the White House,” said CNN’s Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Derision aside, the visit ended in a success for West, Johnson, and all others involved in the effort to free the Memphis grandmother. “Great meeting with @KimKardashian today, talked about prison reform and sentencing,” President Trump tweeted. Following the meeting, the President agreed to commute Johnson’s lifetime sentence.
“It’s funny because people will just hear something and not understand, ‘Well, what does Kim have to do with prison reform?’” West said in an interview with Mic. “Seven months ago, I saw a story on Twitter and it was about a great-grandmother that just tugged at my heart. And it was just that simple connection…If it takes me to go and talk to the highest person in power, the only person that can make this happen, which is President Trump, then I will definitely do that.”
The White House released a statement following the President’s decision to grant Johnson clemency. It was a decision that contradicted the Trump Administration’s stance on prison reform, with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, opposing clemency.
“Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades,” read the White House statement. “While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance.”
Johnson’s newfound liberty has left journalists and political commentators divided on whether the Trump administration will pursue a more lenient drug persecution policy. What do you think? 72% responded that Trump will issue more pardons in a move toward increased leniency toward nonviolent drug trafficking crimes. The remaining 28% thought that this was an anomaly, and that the Trump administration will not continue the trend. Read more about this story on The New York Times here.
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Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender, is granted clemency by Trump after visit from Kim Kardashian West. Does this mean more leniency for non- violent drug offenders?
Zip users in 122 cities and 37 states weighed in on this question.