Kim Kardashian’s work to get Alice Marie Johnson out of prison left her inspired to help others — and she’s zeroed in on the next felon she hopes to free.
On Wednesday, Kardashian visited the White House for the second time to join a listening session about prison reform and the clemency process, according to a statement from the White House. The trip comes just hours after the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star’s interview on Jason Flom’s Wrongful Conviction podcast was released, in which she talked about her new quest to help an inmate named Chris Young.
During the conversation, the reality star, the daughter of late attorney Robert Kardashian, said she’s been talking to Young, a 30-year-old Tennessee native who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a 2010 drug arrest due to mandatory sentences, in hopes of having his sentence commuted. “Yesterday, I had a call with a gentleman that’s in prison for a drug case — got life. It’s so unfair. He’s 30 years old. He’s been in for almost 10 years,” she said. “His prior conviction to get him to his three strikes was marijuana, and then marijuana with less than half a gram of cocaine possession.” (Young’s case, which is more complex and includes a gun charge, is detailed here.)
Kardashian continued, “I was on the phone with the judge that sentenced him to life who resigned because he had never been on the side of having to do something so unfair,” referring to former Tennessee Judge Kevin Sharp. “Now he is fighting [alongside] us to get [Young] out. … It was a mandatory sentence [Sharp] had to deliver, and he knew it was so wrong. And he was like, ‘I’m going to make this right. I’m going to step down, and I’m going to fight to help get him out.’”
Kardashian said she really “connected” with Young, who has had a “perfect record” in prison. She said he worries about being dragged into trouble being housed in a maximum security prison where there is violence on a daily basis.
At another point in the interview, Kardashian referenced Cyntoia Brown, a trafficking victim serving a life sentence for murder, saying she had been reading up about her. She also talked about Kevin Cooper’s case.
Kardashian’s passion for prison reform is clear in the hourlong interview. She talks more about helping to pardon Johnson in June and learning that there are “probably 3,000 Alices” out there — people serving life terms for nonviolent drug-related charges. So she says she’s been doing research, including visiting a women’s prison in California in July.
“The place was practically shaking,” Kardashian said of her visit to California Institution for Women in Corona. Because she had just helped Johnson — and got so much press for it — prisoners were yelling, “‘Kim Kardashian is here. Are you going to get us out? Get us out,’” she recalled. But the experience helped “normalize” the life of an inmate for her. “I totally understood them,” she said. However, she admitted, “I was overwhelmed leaving. I don’t even know where to start. I’m learning.” She also said that after talking to so many women imprisoned for domestic violence cases, she thought for the first time about helping to free violent criminals too, depending on the circumstances.
Kardashian said that she “often” speaks with Jared Kushner, White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law, who she said is “passionate” about changing sentencing laws. “There are so many flaws” in the law, she said. However, she continues, “I’m hopeful.” She also said that when she was first interested in helping Johnson, she reached out to Ivanka Trump because she figured she “would totally understand” as a woman and mother.
The mom of three ended her interview by talking about her passion to make things better for inmates. “I didn’t know anything going into this,” she said, “and I still don’t know everything. I’m learning so much as I go. But I know that I have a voice, and so I am happy to use it.” And she’s using it at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.