Celebrity spouse and reality star Kim Kardashian West has stepped into the issue of mass incarceration after being moved by the plight of two women. It is being reported that Kardashian has hired Los Angeles-based criminal lawyer Shawn Holley to help in the cases of Alice Johnson, 62, and Cyntoia Brown, 29, Black women who many believe are being unjustly punished.
Both women have stories that stem from bad choices and bad circumstances that have resulted in life sentences. Alice Johnson is a grandmother who has served 21 years of a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. In the 1990s, Johnson found herself without a job and unable to support her family. According to Johnson, she needed quick money. In a video a story posted to MIC.com she stated, “I struggled financially. I couldn’t find a job fast enough to take care of my family. I felt like a failure. I went [in]to 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 was charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine, attempted possession of cocaine, and money laundering. She is serving her sentence at the Aliceville Correctional Facility in Aliceville, Alabama. Since she has been incarcerated she has been a model prisoner. Johnson has written inspirational plays, mentored other prisoners and has no disciplinary infractions. Even the prison warden, guards and political figures are in favor of Johnson’s release. It was thought that in 2016 when President Obama pardoned over 200 nonviolent drug offenders that Johnson might be freed. However, her clemency application was denied with no explanation given. Now her supporters are asking President Trump to intervene and grant clemency to the elderly grandmother.
At the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown was raped and trafficked by a pimp named “KuttThroat” in Nashville, Tennessee. Brown soon found herself sexually serving numerous men until she was sold to a Nashville realtor named Johnny Allen as a sex slave. After being raped by Allen repeatedly she was able to turn the tables on her captor and shot him dead with his own gun. Cyntoia is now 24 and is not eligible for parole until she turns 51 for defending her life from a child molester.
Holley said to the New York Daily News, about her involvement in the cases, “Kim asked me several weeks ago how she could help Alice Johnson in her fight for justice. We then began corresponding with Alice and her team of lawyers. Since then, Kim has championed the cause of Cyntoia Brown and asked me to help her get involved in that effort as well.”
The cases of Johnson and Brown have been heavily trending in social media and further show the problem of mass incarceration. Despite the extenuating circumstances in the cases of both women, the justice system sentenced them unfairly. The rate of incarceration of women in America is explosive, between 1978 and 2014, the number of women in state and federal prisons grew by 800 percent. Nearly a quarter of women in state prison were incarcerated for drug offenses at the end of 2013, compared to 15 percent of men. As of Sept. 30, 2014, roughly 59 percent of women in federal prison were incarcerated for drug offenses, compared to approximately 50 percent of men.