Prison reform is a very important issue and America can rest easy knowing that Kim Kardashian and Jared Kushner are on the case.
Seriously, folks. They’ve got this.
By late afternoon on Wednesday, Secret Service agents will wave Kardashian and her attorney through the southwest appointment gate to the West Wing, where they will meet Kushner to discuss prison reform before he walks with them to sit down with President Donald Trump, likely in the Oval Office, along with White House counsel.
Americans wanted their politics to be reality-show style entertainment and they’ve certainly gotten their wish. It’s hard to tell where the government ends and the substance-less fame whoring begins anymore. Whether it’s Obama granting interviews with a chick swimming in Froot Loops or Trump’s over promoted son-in-law meeting to discuss policy with someone whose most notable accomplishments are a sex tape and a large ass.
Kushner isn’t that much more qualified than Kardashian. His resume boils down to being born into money, marrying into more money, then having his father-in-law get elected president. Jared does have a smidgen of experience with the issue though since his father is an ex-con.
Prison reform is an issue near and dear to Kushner, whose father, Charles, spent more than a year in a federal prison camp in 2005 and 2006 on charges of tax evasion, illegal campaign contributions, and witness tampering. The experience left an indelible mark on the young Kushner who, for years, carried a wallet his father made for him in prison; when he joined the White House as senior adviser, he vowed to help improve the system that his father had come through.
Rumor has it that Charles smuggled the wallet in a bodily orifice until he could pass it through a chain link fence to Jared while shouting, “AVENGE ME!” a la Harry Dean Stanton in Red Dawn. (That’s a joke for you Facebook sleuths ready to pounce on some fake news.)
Yes, Jared’s daddy suffered through 14 long months in Federal Prison Camp in Montgomery, Alabama—an intimidating minimum security detention facility with waterfront views, where inmates only have access to two tennis courts. Every day, Charles Kushner lived in fear of getting shanked in the shower by the likes of disgraced Enron CEO Jeff Skilling.
So Jared is all too familiar with the plight of America’s incarcerated population.
Kardashian is brought to the prison reform issue by something she read on Twitter.
This is so unfair… https://t.co/W3lPINbQuy
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 26, 2017
Kardashian, a more recent prison reform evangelist, appears to be approaching the White House meeting with equal seriousness. She will not be bringing the camera crew for her reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, nor will she bring a publicist or her sisters, according to the person familiar with the situation. (Her husband, Kanye West, who recently tweeted a photo of his red Make America Great Again hat, will not be present either, though there have been talks about him making a White House appearance of his own at a later, to-be-determined date.) Instead, Kardashian hopes to make a legal argument to President Trump for why he should pardon Alice Johnson, a 62-year-old great-grandmother serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense. More than 21 years after Johnson went to prison, Kardashian came across Johnson’s story on Twitter earlier this year and reached out to Ivanka, who connected her to Kushner, according to the source. In an interview earlier this month, Kardashian said that, if given the opportunity, she would “explain to [Trump] that, just like everybody else, we can make choices in our lives that we’re not proud of and that we don’t think through all the way.”
Vanity Fair is technically correct in noting that Alice Johnson is imprisoned for a “first time drug offense” but there are a lot of drug offenses to choose from. Johnson’s offense wasn’t getting caught with a bag of weed. She was working for a cocaine trafficking ring. Even so, life without parole seems unnecessarily severe. MIC reports that she was given the sentence required by law. Mandatory minimum sentencing takes the matter out of the judge’s purview.
Oct. 31 will mark 21 years in prison for Johnson. Mic spoke exclusively with Johnson via video call from Aliceville Correctional Institution in Aliceville, Alabama, where she currently resides. Johnson reflected on her experience serving a life sentence without parole.
According to the ACLU, Johnson is one of 3,278 people serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense, meaning she will die in prison. Like Johnson, 79% of these people are drug offenders and 65% are black. The majority of these sentences were mandatory, meaning judges had no discretion over the length or severity of the sentence and were held to laws defining a minimum number of years for drug offenses.
Life without parole for a non-violent crime is probably highly unjust in most if not all cases. Mandatory minimums like this are a holdover from the failed “war on drugs” in the 1980s—a war the Trump administration seems oddly intent on escalating. In 2016, President Obama granted clemency to hundreds of inmates incarcerated under these laws but for some reason Alice Johnson did not make the cut.
In all seriousness, the criminal justice system and especially those areas concerned with drug crimes need to be reformed. Mandatory minimums are a dumb policy not far removed from the ridiculous zero tolerance policies on guns and things that vaguely suggest guns. Any policy that replaces the influence of people best suited to handle a situation with an arbitrary pronouncement from a distant legislature is a bad idea. It violates the basic principle of subsidiarity.
Whatever Kardashian and Kushner try to do may be a good thing. What’s bad about the situation is that it shows how wealth and fame translate into political power much more easily than experience and expertise. In a world where wealth and fame can come as easily from stupidity and chance as from knowledge and hard work, that’s a dangerous situation.