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Kim Kardashian is the hero that criminal justice reform needs
A lot of people talk the talk about criminal justice reform, even though their records on reform are ... shall we say ... not sparkling. There are very few people who walk the criminal justice reform walk. Kim Kardashian is one of those actually working to make change. It shouldn't be a big surprise that Kardashian has a deep-rooted passion for criminal defense as her dad, Robert, was also a well-known lawyer.
She's successfully working with President Trump on commutations and pardons. Kardashian saw a story on Twitter about Alice Marie Johnson and didn't just retweet it. She did something and made it her mission to help the first-time nonviolent drug offender who was sentenced to life. She met with Johnson and then met with Trump. After 21 years in prison, Johnson was released. Kardashian literally saved her life and was quoted after hearing that Johnson was going to be released: "We cried, maybe, on the phone for, like, three minutes straight. Everyone was just crying."
She's funding lawyers who are working on freeing other inmates. There is so much work to be done with our over-incarceration problem because of the old War on Drugs policies, which resulted in thousands of people convicted of low-level drug offenses doing monster prison sentences, including life. Kardashian is funding lawyers who are working on The Decarceration Collective and other initiatives (like #cut50 with Van Jones), including putting to work the First Step Act, the recent law meant to reform our criminal justice issues. In just the last 90 days, she has helped to free 17 prisoners. It's truly remarkable work.
She is studying to be a lawyer so she can continue this important work herself. In California, lawyers do not need to attend law school and can instead take the bar after a 4-year apprenticeship. Kardashian started last summer. Of course, she has no financial reason to pursue this, but is instead doing the right thing. And the apprenticeship is no easy task. It requires a minimum of 18 hours a week and monthly tests. As Kardashian explained on her Instagram page: "For anyone assuming this is the easy way out, it's not. My weekends are spent away from my kids while I read and study. I work all day, put my kids to bed and spend my nights studying." She's even changed her phone number "and disconnected from everyone because [she] made this strict commitment to follow a dream."
She is shining a light on the over-incarceration problem. There may not be a bigger platform than the Kardashian machine, and she knows how to work it. For example, she is working on a documentary called "Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project" for Oxygen network. The nice thing is that she is not promoting these projects in a look-at-me way, but instead is focusing on the issue and the actual people she is helping.
Not satisfied with sitting on the sidelines, Kardashian is actually doing something.
As Jessica Jackson, one of the lawyers she is working with on reform, explains: "You have some celebrities who just kind of want to know the high-level talking points. Kim actually really wanted to understand the strategy and understand the content and understand the reforms that were needed and why the system was that way."
So much of social media and mainstream media is focused on negative stories and attacks. We should take a moment to commend Kim Kardashian for stepping up and taking action.
David Oscar Markus is criminal defense attorney at Markus/Moss in Miami. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School. He tries criminal cases and argues criminal appeals throughout the country. Follow him on Twitter @domarkus.