When Kim Kardashian West was working to free Alice Marie Johnson — a 64-year-old woman serving a 30-year sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense — from prison, she was repeatedly encouraged to get in touch with one person: human rights attorney Jessica Jackson.
As Kardashian West was lobbying President Donald Trump to grant Johnson clemency, Jackson was assembling the First Step Act, a piece of legislation that allows people behind bars the opportunity to earn an earlier release.
“[Jones] had called me one day and said, ‘I really think you should meet Jessica Jackson,’” Kardashian West told Oxygen.com.
She learned that Jackson pursued a career in criminal justice reform after her husband was sentenced to almost a decade in prison for a nonviolent offense. As a high school dropout with a newborn baby at home, Jackson went back to school and earned her diploma, later attending law school and moving to California to work on death penalty cases.
“She did it all with no help … Now she’s one of the most powerful forces in criminal justice, and her story was really inspiring to me,” Kardashian West told Oxygen.com.
When the two finally met, they “fully vibed,” and Jackson now sponsors Kardashian West in her studies to become a lawyer. Throughout her apprenticeship, Kardashian West has also worked with #cut50 senior counsel Erin Haney.
“The compassion that I've learned from her has … brought out a whole other side of compassion and nonjudgement when meeting people that you have no idea what their circumstances are,” Kardashian West said.
After Johnson was granted clemency, Kardashian West went on to advocate for dozens of people behind bars, including Dawn Jackson, Momolu Stewart, Alexis Martin and David Sheppard, all of whom are featured in the documentary special “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project.”
“I hope that if people see enough faces to humanize the pain and the suffering of these people that lawmakers will really want to get involved and people will really understand as well,” she told Oxygen.com. “There hasn’t been one person that has met Alice Johnson that has regretted that decision or felt like that wasn’t the right choice. I hope that people can see Momolu and feel the same way, see Alexis and feel the same way.”
While Kardashian West initially used her platform to bring attention to individual cases, she has gone on to champion major policy changes, such as the First Step Act. With her support, more than 7,000 people have been released early from federal prisons, Jackson told “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project,” streaming now on Oxygen.
“I'm lucky that I get to work with #cut50 and really learn from them along the way,” Kardashian West told the special. “I’m prepping for the bar and hope that I can help as many people affected by the system as I possibly can.”
Kardashian West recently revealed in an interview with E! News that she plans to take the First-Year Law Students' Examination, or “baby bar,” this summer.
Meanwhile, #cut50 has been focusing on Dignity for Incarcerated Women, a campaign that aims to improve the health care and overall treatment of women in prison. To date, the initiative has successfully changed policies in 10 states, impacting a total of more than 30,000 incarcerated women.
“In order for the laws to change and in order for all these policies to change, we do need to put a face with the crime and to show people that people are better than the worst choice that they’ve ever made in their life at one moment in their life,” Kardashian West said.
To learn more, visit #cut50 and watch “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project” on Oxygen.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.