Kim Kardashian West Answers 9 Questions About Prison Reform | Vanity Fair

published on July 2, 2020

you don't have to throw someone's life

away because they made a bad choice at

one point in their life and that people

can be rehabilitated so for me I always

always say if someone does the crime

they should do time but what is fair

time I'm super excited to be here

talking to the great Kim Kardashian

about the Justice Project which is this

unbelievable documentary that she's put

so much blood sweat and tears into we

are gonna be talking about the

documentary but not just a documentary

the fact that Kim Kardashian has become

such a powerful advocate for criminal

justice why was the family think about

it how did she feel about it how does

she choose who to help there's so many

questions but first let me just say

welcome to Kim Kardashian how you doing

hi I'm good it honestly feels good to

get up and put on something else but

pajamas put on some makeup I miss work

you know it does feel good to get up I

had to sneak out and I'm in my mom's

house she we're all not seeing each

other really so I had to go in her back

door and come in this room I had to

sneak away from my kids to be honest

yeah I'm loving this break well you know

it's um it is important we should

probably address that right at the very

top you know we're in this age of the

viruses age of the pandemic the age of

the quarantine what concerns do you have

for people behind bars in the age of the

pandemic well first of all I want to

thank the governors who you know have

been releasing some people that are

incarcerated which is amazing and I

really commend them I sent a tweet out

to governor Newsom thanking him for that

you know I think that it's really tough

for visits to be canceled because of

this and I understand that the the logic

behind it but to not replace it with

phone calls with some kind of other

interaction I think is cruel and there

has to be some some

change with that that really breaks my

heart that these people just have to now

not have any connection with anybody

when they really depend on that

absolutely and I know your good friend

Jessica Jackson and Aaron Haney who are

in the documentary which we're going to

get you have put it put out from the

reformed Alliance this whole safer plan

to try to get some people out you know

they're people who could come out safely

you know who are well and who are not a

threat to anybody some of the governors

have been asked by the national

government Association and others Reform

Alliance and others to you know you have

fewer people you know going in if some

petty stuff don't put them in if they

can't come out safely and be on home

confinement let them come out and then

let's rush in medical supplies and end

and masks and that kind of stuff so

there's a big effort to try to help

people become behind bars and I think a

lot of the consciousness that people

have about what's going on in the

prisons has a lot to do with the work

that you've been doing and many many

others I noticed at the top of the

documentary you point out that you know

you are new to this issue and you're

still learning about criminal justice

why was it so important for you to say

that at the top that you are a newcomer

to this cause because I am and I think

sometimes the way the media can spin

something or make it seem like I am

doing this all on my own and I'm not and

about I've always been really vocal that

it's a team of people as soon as I read

a letter or hear a case I'll send it to

Jessica and Aaron who you introduced me

to and they are like my girls squad team

of attorneys that we talk about every

Kate will be up on line all night long

texting each other about specific cases

about exactly what's going on what's

going on with coronavirus in prisons at

every last issue we talk about and so I

think one of the reasons I really wanted

to do this documentary is because I feel

like it shows me it's like my journey of

what I've learned and I've never been

shy to say that I started off probably

judgmental and feeling like okay

Alice Johnson nonviolent drug offender I

can handle that like as long as there

was no violence involved I I can I can

support that until I started to educate

myself and visit prisons and go and

speak to people that are incarcerated

and understand their backstory it's

something that I never took the time to

even think about before I met with so

many people that at when they were a

teenager they committed horrific crimes

but now in their 30s 40s they are a

completely different rehabilitated

person and even though they did that and

made that choice and mistake to do

something really awful it doesn't mean

they are that mistake and doesn't mean

that they haven't rehabilitated and

don't deserve a second chance at life

when you're 16 years old

your brain isn't even really formed yet

you can you can you can do something you

can have a bad you know weekend or a bad

summer and then get your act together

and then never have a problem again in

life if you grew up in the suburbs if

you have money but you know some people

wind up in real trouble why do you why

is it so important to you to humanize

people who have made really really

serious mistakes

I want to humanize as many people as

possible but not just in like a

low-level drug offense case like I

wanted it to be in a sex trafficking

case in every situation that you could

imagine and really feel empathy I just

want people to feel empathy and so that

they can feel that truly in their hearts

if they were to get to know people and

hear their stories that they would

definitely feel safe with these people

re-entering back into our society and I

think I think that's the great thing

about this documentary is you know the

the people who you're showing the people

who you know somebody who actually you

know killed the man you say it's awful

saying somebody killed the man I don't

know what that person ever to come back

out and then you understand the

circumstances of her being trafficked

and abused and all these different

things you start to reveal and start to

think to yourself okay I've now got a

different perspective I want I want to

ask you about the importance of context

and that sort of stuff but before I do

that I still think a lot of people are

just trying to get there my

wrapped around how can Kim Kardashian

mega star superstar being walking around

in prisons and jails and all this sort

of stuff people first thought it was a

publicity stunt now a couple years later

I was not you know you could get

publicity do whatever you want you this

is clearly a passion but you know what

would your dad think about this I mean

your dad was a lawyer I mean what would

your father think about about what

you're doing this this turn your life

has taken I think he would love it we

have had the conversation though about

going to law school him and I when I was

in college and I was trying to think of

what my major would be I thought okay I

can like major in political science and

I could really do this and and then he

was like listen like you've seen the

hard work that it puts in I don't doubt

that you can do this but it's a really

stressful life to be an attorney do you

really want to be an attorney and then I

ended up majoring in communications

instead and so we talked about it a lot

because he always saw me snooping in his

stuff and looking through all of his

evidence books and like in the summer

times when all my friends were hanging

out and he was just like go have fun

there's you know you can you can always

do this later and honestly sometimes it

is so tough and I have these assignments

that I feel like I have to succeed in

and I get really overwhelmed and I feel

like quitting sometimes but I know that

he's like right there pushing me to just

be like you can do this and so I always

like take a minute I stopped and I'm

just like okay I'm gonna finish my work

the next day I need a breather it's like

too overwhelming for me and then I get

up super energized and get back at it

and I know that's like him pushing me to

do that you know it's amazing I think

for the younger generation you're the

most famous Kardashian you know they

heard at you but my generation it was

your dad that was the big guy you know

you're kind of like his kid coming up

from our point of view and so you know

we know that you got that legal beagle

in your blood because that you know he

was such an amazing attorney and you


such a big deal culturally as well

illegally what but what about your kids

you just said you're a refugee right now

and your mom's house from your kids you

got a little bitty kids what do they

think about what you're doing how do you

explain to them that you know mommy is

going into prison to help people did

that even come up it does and so I she

traveled with us to Houston when I went

to go visit Rodney Reed and she was with

me but she had to stay in the car while

I went inside and I had to explain to

her like we're at you know a prison and

we're gonna be going in and I'm going

you know and she was like well mommy I

know you're just going to help people

like I know you're not going to jail so

she really understands I think because

she's around a lot when I'm studying

with Jessica and Aaron and so she'll

just hear all the conversation she'll

hear me studying my flashcards she'll

hear me like talk to myself and call

things out and say definitions and stuff

like that or she'll hear me on calls

like that I'm when I'm dealing with

different legal teams and stuff like

that so she's really smart she's really

aware of what's going on and if anything

that like pushes me more because I

really was the type where I didn't love

school like I didn't love college and

high school was so much fun but than

College it just wasn't my thing so to

know that now that I'm almost 40 and I

love it and I love going to school like

I love having that as a good example for

my kids too that like no matter what age

if you find something that you're

passionate about

you can absolutely go for it and it's a

really personal goal of mine so one time

you're talking about like you got your

backpack with your books and your kids

kids have their backpack with their

books like do like the Mommy and Me on

the study and stuff which i think is

really really awesome and I think it's

just so important for people to see and

hear that this is this is not just

something you show up for for the press

conferences or something like that this

is a daily part of your life learning

how to become a lawyer and dealing with

all these cases how do you decide I mean

when the letters come when you you see

something in the news and

what is the process that you go through

to pick who to help because that's what

that's I mean that's a big decision well

the good thing is because you know cut

50 sponsors me and my apprenticeship I

know a lot about what goes on in the

office and what policy you guys are

working on and the team's working on so

if I see you guys are you know trying to

work on something that involves like a

specific gun charge or something all

read letters and if that pops up then

I'll put that in in that pile and so

then I'll send all of those to Jessica

be like I think you guys are working on

this this might be helpful to you and

then I have a different groups of people

that I feel like if something comes up

in the first step backs and I know that

we can you know help that and that

category and then other letters that

have nothing to do with any of the

policy that anyone's working on it's

like a feeling that I get when I read

Dawn's letter and dawns in our in the

documentary that I did I cried right

away she was so in-depth and detailed

her entire story to me and it just broke

my heart and I thought I have to help

this woman I don't know how we're gonna

do it I didn't know anyone and she's in

New Jersey so it's like starting these

relationships with the governor's and

figuring out what can be done and

getting her an attorney that can

properly fight for her so every case is

different it's usually a feeling there's

sometimes I want to help so badly and I

know that there's nothing I can do but

I'll still write them a letter back and

try to give them a little bit of peace

and just thank them for reaching out to

me so I try to help as many people as I

can and sometimes we were successful and

sometimes or not and that breaks my


yeah you know I think that the you know

I was a founder of four Cutt 50 and

along with Jessica Jackson and and Matt

Haney and Matt hey nice big sister Aaron

Haney and Jessica still help on the

Kapiti side we also help to run the

reform alliance and I think people

assume that you get some kind of special

pass because you're so famous or

whatever but you actually work as hard

or harder than anybody we've ever had on

the team as

we gotta keep up with you I just think I

just want to I mean I I have no reason

to say it if it's not true because you

know whatever you're doing is more than

people probably expect you to do but I

just want to say it's been very

incredible to watch the level of

dedication and discipline that you've

brought to this thing you didn't mention

earlier I want to come back to it this

idea of context what they call

mitigating circumstances somebody did

something on his face you say this is

just terrible but then you learn

something behind it and you say oh that

makes it make you see a little bit

differently can you talk about that in

the context of Alexis Martin who's in

the documentary yeah so Alexis Martin

she was at 14 sex trafficked by someone

who she felt like was a father figure

she had a really rough life at home

always being passed around from place to

place she had lived with him for a while

I think it was a few years of this and

it would get you know deeper and crazier

and a really rough life for her so she

was on a text message with someone and

they said they were gonna rob him the

home that she was in and that they would

give her a cut of the money

and so she would be able to break free

and go live a different life now there

was no no discussion of violence they

just knew that they were going to come

in and rob some things some items are

cached she knew that cash was in the

home so because there was that text

message they come into the home she at

that moment while they got robbed she

was being raped by her pimps brother and

so the guy that was raping her got

killed I mean sorry got shot but lived

and then her pimp got killed and none of

that was in the plan and so she was

charged with his murder and attempted

murder of his brother and she just knew

that they were someone was going to come

in and and rob them but she knew nothing

would be violent and she was just trying

to look for a way out and try to get

some money

that was her only option and there was

also a particular law that was put into

place protecting minors from sex

trafficking victims and her lawyer at

the time didn't know that and so she has

gone back for ineffective counsel and

the lawyer has even signed off and is

trying to help saying that he knew he

was ineffective which is really rare to

get from an attorney that will admit

that work for an attorney to admit that

they did not do a good job is unusual so

you know that attorney must feel really

bad for the fact that this young woman

is in that situation I just again what I

love about this documentary you know and

the whole approach that you have is you

know you'reyou're going way beyond the

safe and simple and easy you're getting

into the real complexity but that's real

life you know real life is messy and I

always say if it's not paradoxical it's

not true there's nothing that's just

super clean or super easy if it is it's

super phony and it also went along with

my journey of me feeling like I'm just

like you I'm you know the person out

there watching I'm I felt like I don't

know how I would be able to support this

and really rally behind this until I

took the time to educate myself and meet

with numerous people dozens of people

that were so generous to share their

stories with me and be so open and it

really changed my mind and so I hope

that this can change people's mind and

people can just have empathy because I

love crime shows i watch every crime

show you could possibly imagine but I've

never seen a crime show that is from the

other side it's always from the victims

point of view and their family unless

it's like you know some intense serial

killer that wants to tell their whole

story you never see these stories and

and people really admit their

wrongdoings and tell how they got there

and I think that's really important for

people to hear I think sometimes people

hear you saying or me saying or others

saying well if somebody had a bad life

then just let him out of jail that's not

what we're saying we're just saying that

you have to

the totality of the person everything

that happened to them and also their

pathway toward redemption if somebody

makes bad choices and then they began to

make better choices that should count

too you don't have to throw someone's

life away because they made a bad choice

at one point in their life and that

people can be rehabilitated so for me I

always always say if someone does the

crime they should do time but what is

fair time and that's that's the struggle

somebody watchin documentary or hearing

the sound of your voice what do you hope

that they'll do to make a difference in

this issue I hope that people you know

if they're passionate about someone in

particular or an issue in general that

they reach out to their governors that

they speak up about how they feel about

people being you know wrongfully

incarcerated or reach out to cut 50 or

any organization that you feel like is

doing an amazing job to push these

issues and you know volunteer or ask how

you can be helpful it's usually lots of

calls to the governor's or are helpful

and just using your voice to speak out

someone use their voice to speak out

about Alice and tweeted about it I saw

it and so we were able to really change

her life but it was a bunch of us that

made that happen yeah you know a

Brittany Barnett topeka Sam there are

all these different people Shalaka

Singur that we had there's a whole

community of people some formerly

incarcerated some directly impacted and

you know all of us are better off

because you've joined this cause and

joined this fight and I think this

documentary is gonna open up a lot of

eyes I appreciate getting a chance to

spend time with you a reformed alliance

calm and cut fiftyorg are two places

you can go for more information

cut fiftyorg and Reform Alliance comm

Thank You Kim

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