Kim Kardashian met President Donald Trump on Wednesday, in order to urge him to grant clemency to Alice Marie Johnson. Topics such as prison reform and sentencing were on the agenda.
Chicago. 31st May, 2018: The meeting was arranged by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for whom prison reform is a priority as a high-level adviser to Trump.
Alice Marie Johnson is a great-grandmother who was sentenced with life imprisonment without parole in 1996, after being convicted of non-violent drug trafficking. To date, she has already served more than 20 years. A video made by Mic that went viral drew Kardashian’s attention and that is when she started to defend Alice Marie Johnson’s cause, saying that the whole situation was “so unfair”.
Kardashian’s mission will be a tough one, tough, as Trump has had an extremely rigid, strict, and punitive approach to drug crimes so far, claiming that drug dealers shall not be able to kill others or put other’s lives in danger and get away with it.
However, there are certain elements that caused a stir in the U.S. as far as Johnson’s case is concerned.
Indeed, Johnson clearly admitted that she did wrong, and that she regrets it. She explained that she was going through a particularly difficult phase of life, after divorcing her husband, losing her job one year later, losing her house, and losing her son in a motorbike crash later. She was being unable to find a job to feed her children, and that is precisely what got her involved in the world of drug trafficking from 1991 to 1994. Unlike many other drug offenders or criminals, Johnson says that she would certainly change the past if she could.
At this stage, the question is whether Johnson should remain imprisoned for life for a non violent offense and whether excessively severe sentencing really does more good than harm to society in general. In fact, statistics prove that the sentencing of drug offenders has generally been discriminatory, as members of the black community are jailed more and longer than white dealers even though the percentage of drug offenders in both communities does not vary too much. Statistics also show that more sentencing did not prevent drug prices from going down (and thus, it did not reduce consumption), and that it did not either lessen the risks of recidivism or reduce the crime rate in the U.S.
Johnson is not the only case with which Kardashian expressed frustration. Kardashian also raised her voice in favor of Matthew Charles, who was released, and re-imprisoned later on when the courts realized that his release was a mistake. In the meantime, Charles was back to real life, had found a job and started a new, crime-free life…
On Trump’s side, we witnessed a move to toughen the sentences for drug crimes, considering death penalty in cases where high amounts of drugs are involved. Also, Trump sent a memo to prosecutors, asking them not to avoid charges for lower-level drug offenses, which is a U-turn from what Obama had done. The next episodes of Johson’s story will tell us if flexibility can be envisaged or whether the punitive perspective will prevail.