Instagram model, activist and almost-lawyer Kim Kardashian, affectionately known as “the Rosa Parks of people who are nothing like Rosa Parks,” visited President Donald Trump on Wednesday to push for further criminal justice reform.
Shortly before she was spotted at the White House, Kardashian tweeted: “Today Alice, Crystal, Judith, Tynice and I, along with the @cut_50 team will be at the White House bringing light to these women and discuss more change that our justice system desperately needs!”
Fellow reality star Ivanka Trump tweeted a picture shortly after the morning visit, showing the attendees of the historic meeting between Trump and Kardashian, the probable next Supreme Court justice.
In addition to Johnson, Kardashian was joined by Tynice Nichole Hall, Crystal Munoz and Judith Negron, all three of whom had their sentences commuted by Mr. Trump in February. Hall and Munoz had both been serving sentences stemming from drug charges, while Negron was convicted for “orchestrating a $205 million Medicare fraud scheme,” according to the Justice Department. Johnson, whose sentence was commuted by Mr. Trump in 2018, personally advocated for Munoz’s release...
Kardashian has been arguably the most influential person outside the administration in pushing criminal justice reform at the White House. She’s also worked behind the scenes to lobby for some violent offenders, including Cyntoia Brown-Long, who was granted clemency last year after serving 15 years of a life sentence for killing a man she says sex trafficked her.
At a White House event last year, Kardashian thanked the president for his “compassion” in pushing the issue.
Wait…did Van Jones die?
Did he get a job inside the White House? How is Kardashian the “most influential person outside the administration in pushing criminal justice reform” when black women like Brittney K. Barnett and MiAngel Cody exist? Did Kim beat them in an untelevised pageant?
Aside from Brown, Kardashian became known for her criminal justice appropriation after she convinced Donald Trump to commute the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson. The African/American actress (Sometimes she’s American, sometimes she’s African) is now studying to become a lawyer. She’s not going to law school or anything. Apparently, you can just teach yourself the law.
While Kardashian’s efforts are noble and Trump has received praise for his part in handing out pardons and freeing people from prison, there is one important thing has been left out of this narrative:
This is not criminal justice reform.
Pardoning someone who was convicted or harshly sentenced is not reform. It actually demonstrates why we need criminal justice reform. Rich people, powerful people, white people and people with friends in high places have always had access to a separate legal system. Freeing a handful of victims of a racist system does not make the system any less racist. In fact, this perpetuates injustice by making the less-enlightened believe that a compassionate fail-safe is built into the mass incarceration complex. There were people pleading for “Justice for Cyntoia” long before Kimmy started giving a fuck and now, with the help of her bestie Donald, many people think Kim actually delivered it.
A 16-year-old sex trafficking victim spending 14 years behind bars is not “justice.” A nonviolent offender serving 21 years of a life sentence is criminally unjust. Nothing has been reformed.
And yes, the much-heralded FIRST STEP ACT is an important piece of progress. It led to the release of thousands of formerly incarcerated men and women. Even though Trump is taking all the credit for that, there is one distinction that many people don’t seem to be aware of:
Obama did that.
The bulk of the people released under the First Step Act were released because of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity between sentences for those convicted of selling crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. As we noted earlier, the Obama administration originally tried to make the 2010 law retroactive but Republicans refused to go along.
When Republicans first wrote the First Step Act, it did not address the crack vs. cocaine disparity. It didn’t address drug sentencing. It didn’t address sentencing reform at all. Democrats borrowed the Republicans’ 2010 strategy after dozens of progressive organizations like the Color of Change and the Prison Policy Initiative urged Democratic lawmakers to vote against the bill. Eventually, Republicans begrudgingly agreed to include prison and sentencing reform. Many of Trump’s closest puppets, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R- Hell Ark.), still voted against the bill.
As of January, 2,387 people (pdf) have been released from prison under the retroactive provision of the FIRST STEP Act. 91.4 percent of those freed were black. The bill also reduces time behind bars for good behavior and released hundreds of sick and elderly via the “compassionate release” provision. When have you ever met a compassionate Republican?
Donald Trump didn’t do that.
To be clear, what Kim Kardashian did for those imprisoned women is unequivocally good. Her heart seems to be pure and no one should question her motives. No one (well…maybe a few white people in the Senate) thinks Brown, Johnson or anyone whose skin color was factored into their sentence, should still be in prison.
However, we should simply stop lauding Kim’s efforts as part of Trump’s criminal justice reforms. He has fought every substantive criminal justice effort since he became president. But it is no different from how he takes credit for Obama’s economy while undoing the policies that made the economy thrive. It’s the same as taking credit for low black unemployment while dismantling affirmative action and discrimination legislation. He literally wants credit for freeing nonviolent drug offenders while advocating for drug dealers to get the death penalty.
But to be fair, if there was actually justice for criminals, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president.