Why It Will Take More Than Kim Kardashian West to Address Mass Incarceration

A 63-year-old great-grandmother named Alice Johnson is free from prison and was reunited with her family last week, all thanks to Kim Kardashian West. The reality star met with President Trump to advocate for Johnson’s release and won. Now the president has turned to NFL athletes, asking who else they think he should pardon, in an effort to raise his approval rating with black Americans.

Some are celebrating the president’s interest in clemency, while some prison reform advocates are saying it may be problematic.

RELEVANT sat down with a leading voice in the conversation on prison reform, Dominique Gilliard, director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice (LMDJ) initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). His book Rethinking Incarceration offers a uniquely Christian perspective on restorative justice and prison reform.

What are your thoughts on Alice Johnson’s case?

There are a ton of “Alices” out there. Most people just don’t have the luxury of having a celebrity who becomes aware and advocates for their case.

A good example of this: There’s a case that I think is even more worthy of being addressed right now than Alice’s case. Even though this offense was more grotesque in some ways, this person has demonstrated that they are reformed in more ways than Alice was able to.

The guy’s name is Matthew Charles. And his case is picking up steam right now. There was a petition circulating to try to get more awareness to this case and it eventually made it back to the White House. Fox News did a story on him and then NBC just did a story on him last week. But most people wouldn’t even know who he is before it started generating this national attention. He would be an example of the different Alices that are out there, that’s why I say she’s metaphorical.

So this is someone who had spent over 20 years in jail. He’s been free now for a year and a half and has demonstrated that he’s changed and reformed. But our justice system actually insisted that he go back and be reincarcerated. So I do think there’s danger in looking at Alice as such an anomaly because I think really she’s more metaphorically representing a broader swath of our nation’s prison population.

Read the rest of this article here, at Relevant Magazine. (Photo credit given to Business Insider)