Kim Kardashian told Fox News she is determined to help free prisoners she believes have been wrongfully accused.
The reality TV star has partnered with Oxygen to release a two-hour documentary titled “Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project” airing Sunday night, which comes after the 39-year-old’s disclosure that she’s studying to be a lawyer.
Last year, the mother of four lobbied the White House for clemency for Alice Marie Johnson, who served more than two decades of a life sentence without parole for non-violent offenses. President Trump commuted her sentence and signed bipartisan legislation that gives judges more discretion when sentencing some drug offenders and boosts prisoner rehabilitation efforts.
Despite her efforts, Kardashian is aware many still doubt her work and continue to question her motives. Still, she’s unfazed by the rumors and instead, is eager to use her fame as a platform to give those she insisted have been long silenced to finally share their stories.
Kardashian spoke to Fox News about why she’s launching the “The Justice Project” now, the message she has for her critics and what she hopes the future holds for her.
Fox News: What was it about the criminal reform crisis that made you go, “Let’s pick up a camera and document this”?
Kim Kardashian: Well, I think my journey of working with Alice Johnson really did set something off inside of me that I just couldn’t really look away. I had worked with her first, but then when you … I just realized there’s so many more Alice’s out there that needed the help. I couldn’t just sit back and not do something.
Once I started to really get into it and meet a lot of people along the way, I just realized how many things were wrong with this system. So many different areas really needed my help. So I just started to get into other projects. As it would go on, people would introduce me to more people and different situations. I just couldn’t really sit back.
Fox News: There’s no doubt that there are people out there who will question your motives. What would you tell those critics?
Kardashian: Well, there’s hate all over the place.
Fox News: There may be some viewers who may not initially be familiar with your work with prison reform. Therefore, they may automatically think this is a publicity stunt. What would you want them to take away from your experience?
Kardashian: I would say, first of all, [I’m] spending so much time away from my family and children. I’m going to law school, which is taking 18 hours a week from my babies to study. I think there are more cost-effective and time-effective publicity stunts that I can do. I always laugh at that one. Why would someone go to law school for a publicity stunt? That’s torture.
What I really want is for these cases, these stories of injustices, to get attention. I think as long as these cases are getting attention, that just makes me really happy. I just hope that it continues like that, no matter what it’s faced with. I think you just have to tune out the noise and stay focused on people and these issues. They’re the ones that deserve the attention, not the critics.
Fox News: Which case explored in this documentary really shook you to your core and why?
Kardashian: I would say Dawn Jackson. She wrote me a letter and I just started to cry when I first read it. It was extremely … It’s just emotional for me to hear the abuse that she suffered as a young child up until she took someone’s life when she was 30. I just felt her situation wasn’t fair. She was never really given a fair shot. That really just broke my heart for her.
Fox News: Take us back when you walked into a prison for the very first time for this documentary. What was going through your mind?
Kardashian: I didn’t really have any expectations. I knew that I just really wanted to inform myself and really understand more about the system and more about the individuals. I started off really feeling like I would be super supportive of someone if they were in Alice’s shoes, meaning a low-level drug offense, not something that was violent. Then I went to these prisons and really educated myself and really met with people that shared their stories with me and really opened up to me.
The first prison I went to was a woman’s prison, and it really just like … It was an emotional experience. So many people were so open to me. I think that’s when it really clicked. The stories that they were telling me were really not far off from a situation that maybe me or one of my friends would have been in That really connected with me. As I would go from prison to prison and have these experiences, my heart would open up more and more. I understood that maybe someone at 14 years old who committed an awful, horrendous crime and they’d go to prison for a few decades — that person is not the same person that they went in as.
And you have no idea the background or the history that they have endured and the abuse or pain that they may have experienced that led them to make those decisions. So what are we doing for them? That’s what broke my heart. To think at 14 years old…At 14 years old I had no idea who I was. What if I made this awful decision?
Fox News: Who were some of the women you met in that prison?
Kardashian: I met a woman in prison, and her parents were gang members. They basically told her, “If you don’t kill this kid” – of a rival gang – “then you won’t be able to come home.” And she made this awful decision at such a young age just to survive. I believe people deserve a second chance at life. I don’t think these children should be thrown away. Their lives should not just be thrown away off based on decisions that they’re not even really old enough to understand the magnitude of what’s really going on.
I believe, obviously, if you do the crime then you need to do the time. But it’s just a matter of what is fair. And it really opened up my heart to understand the pain and the circumstances that so many people have gone through that led them to make their decisions.
Fox News: What surprised you the most about yourself while hearing these stories from other women?
Kardashian: I think my empathy towards people really opened up and my ways of being judgmental completely changed. I don’t think I ever really gave a lot of consideration to people’s backstories and I was probably like everyone else where I would see something on paper.
If you look at Dawn Jackson, I mean she was presented to her jury as someone who was a drug addict that came to her step-grandfather’s house to rob him and then ended up stabbing him, when in fact you don’t hear about her life-long history of abuse and then knowing that her step-grandfather had been one of her abusers.
Once you take that stuff into consideration and everything that she’s been through in her life, it definitely changes the outcome. But she was never given that opportunity. So if I were to probably read on paper what everyone else read, I might’ve assumed the same thing. So it’s definitely forced me to take a step back and just think about people’s backstories and histories and just be more sympathetic.
Fox News: Why do you believe mass incarceration is such a big problem now?
Kardashian: It’s definitely a financial issue. I think that the prisons are making so much money having them incarcerated and I think that is just completely not the right way to look at it. I mean, two and a half million people are incarcerated and … once you start getting into all that, the people that can’t afford their bail, that are stuck in prison sometimes for years off of a really minor crime – it’s just really sad. And unfortunately, to keep people in prison just makes them more money.
Fox News: In terms of your law career, where do you see yourself heading?
Kardashian: I would hope … I mean, I finished one year and I have three years to go, and so it’s definitely going to be a really focused time for the next three years. Apart of the apprenticeship that I’m doing, I have to be active in cases and bill writing.
I do love working on individual cases, and I’ll definitely continue that. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, I would hope to be able to hire or start a really amazing law firm and hire a lot of formerly incarcerated people to work in the firm.
I’ve met so many people that would be the best attorneys or paralegals. They know more about their cases and the law than some law lawyers that I know. I mean, they spend their days in and out learning the law to figure out how to get themselves out. And so I think that would be a huge goal of mine.
“Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project” airs April 5 at 7 p.m. EST on Oxygen. The Associated Press contributed to this report.