President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, and it's big news.
Johnson has been serving a life sentence as a first-time, nonviolent drug offender, a case that many say highlights the inequality of the criminal justice system. Johnson was a central talking point for prison reform advocates — a petition asking for her clemency received more than 200,000 signatures.
A week after Kardashian West visited Trump to ask for Johnson's pardon, the White House announced that Trump was commuting Johnson's case, meaning she'll soon leave prison and return to civilian life.
The phone call I just had with Alice will forever be one of my best memories. Telling her for the first time and he… https://t.co/ruwe4M0q8m— Kim Kardashian West (@Kim Kardashian West)1528309002.0
There's real momentum behind prison reform, but the work isn't over.
At a time when Democrats and Republicans seem split on virtually every issue, the topic of prison reform is a rare case where there has been some bipartisan unity.
Of course, there's also a lot more work to be done — on both sides of the aisle.
There are thousands more like Alice Johnson -- people languishing in federal prisons and serving long sentences for… https://t.co/YdamQzl9WB— Kristen Clarke (@Kristen Clarke)1528303878.0
A prison sentencing reform bill recently passed the Republican-controlled House but faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Meanwhile, activists have taken considerable heat for lobbying Trump directly on the issue, but they say the need for justice reform overrides partisan reservations about Trump.
There is also criticism of the current reform bill, with progressive activists split over whether it's worth supporting a flawed piece of legislation some say doesn't go far enough. Some advocates argue that "incremental progress" is worth fighting for, particularly on an issue that has been stagnant for so long.
Kardashian West herself acknowledged there's so much more work to be done — something she plans to stay directly involved in.
I hope to continue this important work by working together with organizations who have been fighting this fight for… https://t.co/cnAoA7kPmY— Kim Kardashian West (@Kim Kardashian West)1528305498.0
Still, the commuting of Johnson's sentence earned a lot of praise, even from some of Trump's biggest critics.
I have to give credit where it’s due. First-time non violent drug offender Alice Johnson is granted clemency by… https://t.co/K1Ns8wUlD8— Linda Sarsour (@Linda Sarsour)1528304535.0
Obama could have and should have freed Alice Johnson. He had her application for mercy on his desk. He chose not to… https://t.co/Q7wPd3tSRB— Prison Culture (@Prison Culture)1528303838.0
Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Trump has been giving out pardons like beads thrown from a Mardi Gras flo… https://t.co/RM6hDszQCB— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@Ana Navarro-Cárdenas)1528303530.0
Kardashian West was mocked by some for her White House visit, but she was working for a good cause and deserves respect.
In the days that followed Kardashian West's visit to the White House, both she and Trump were relentlessly mocked.
Some of that is understandable: Two reality TV stars with decidedly imperfect track records meeting to discuss a vital issue like prison reform is ... unusual.
On the other hand, Kardashian West is a major celebrity. Every decision she makes in public or private has real consequences. She took a risk to her public reputation and her financial bottom line by meeting with Trump.
And now Johnson is free. No matter what you might think of Kardashian West as a celebrity, she deserves respect for that alone.
Her critics should be taking notes. If you're going to engage in "Trump diplomacy," this is how it's done.
And hopefully she'll continue using her massive influence to help other people like Johnson get a second chance in life.