What Inspired Kim Kardashian West to Help Alice Marie Johnson?
But Kardashian has a real desire to help people through prison reform. One case, in particular, opened her eyes, changed the way Kardashian saw the justice system and prompted her to change course. Here’s how Kardashian became inspired by a felon named Alice Marie Johnson.
Who is Alice Marie Johnson?
Johnson was a single mom in Mississippi, raising five children in the nineties. The first of which, she birthed at the age of 15. She was desperate to make ends meet after going through a divorce and losing her job. She filed for bankruptcy, but that wasn’t enough to save her financial situation.
In 1991, her house was foreclosed upon. Then, in a devastating turn of events, her youngest son died in a motorcycle accident in 1992. Johnson had reached rock bottom.
“I felt like a failure,” Johnson told Mic. “I went into a complete panic and out of desperation, I made one of the worst decisions of my life to make some quick money. I became involved in a drug conspiracy.”
Johnson became a part of a cocaine distribution system, although she never sold the drugs herself. Instead, she facilitated communications through phone calls, relaying messages like: “Everything is straight.”
She was doing what she could to build a better life, but in 1993, everything came crashing down. Johnson was arrested. And even though she was a first time offender, had never sold drugs herself, or acted in a violent way, she was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 25 years.
What Inspired Kim Kardashian to help Alice Marie Johnson?
In 2017, a news story about Johnson’s case appeared on Kardashian’s Twitter feed. She immediately re-posted it to her many millions of followers, but she still felt that she needed to do more. Speaking with Time, Kardashian called Johnson’s story a “huge eye opener.”
“That someone who was a phone mule [received] a harsher sentence than Charles Manson made absolutely no sense to me,” Kardashian said. “It just really broke my heart, and I just wanted to help her because [I knew] I could.”
Learning about Johnson’s case was a light-bulb moment for Kardashian, and it kicked off her work in prison reform. She began working with lawyers and advocacy groups.
When she realized the only way Johnson would be freed was through a presidential pardon, Kardashian used her contacts to reach out to the White House. Kardashian called Ivanka Trump to discuss the situation.
“I called Ivanka and we had a really great conversation about women and wanting to help each other,” Kardashian said during an interview with Today. “I knew that she would’ve understood Alice, She immediately was so receptive and so great.”
The president’s daughter put Kardashian in touch with her husband, Jared Kushner, who immediately took an interest in the case. With the help of Kushner, Kardashian eventually brought the issue to the president.
Alice Marie Johnson is released
In 2018, on Johnson’s birthday, Kardashian was finally able to meet with Donald Trump. The president later tweeted about their discussion. “Greet meeting with @KimKardashian today, talked about prison reform and sentencing,” he wrote.
After over 21 years in prison, Johnson finally got the news she’d been hoping for. Trump commuted her sentence, and she was released from prison.
Johnson’s children had been trying for years to get their mother out of prison. But Kardashian brought so much attention to her case, it’s unlikely that Johnson would have been released without her support.
Kardashian admitted on an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians that she now receives thousands of letters asking for help. She is continuing her work for prison reform and is now studying to become a lawyer so that she can help even more people.
There’s no doubt that Kardashian helped Johnson, but Johnson also helped Kardashian. Without becoming aware of her case, Kardashian might never have had her eye-opening moment. She now has a purpose and a goal to work towards, and that’s something we can never take for granted.