Kim Kardashian West has acquired a reputation for using her fame to bring attention to criminal justice reform. But after helping to release Alice Marie Johnson, a first-time nonviolent drug offender who had been in jail for 21 years and whose sentence would have kept her in jail for life, West realized she had to do more. This calling to justice hasn’t gone unnoticed, however, as reports show she continues to help several other inmates.
Now there’s a group of advocates who seem to be calling on West to help Ross Ulbricht, the former operator of the Silk Road site. But will she listen to their plea?
After pledging to dedicate more of her time to learning the legal aspects of the criminal justice system so she can better help nonviolent offenders, West and her personal attorney, Brittany K. Barnett, continued to work on helping drug offenders. And according to CNN, the duo helped to commute the life sentences of 17 first-time nonviolent drug offenders in the past three months.
To Barnett, who’s also the co-founder of the Buried Alive Project, West has been essential in this effort.
"[West] has provided financial support to cover legal fees so that we can travel the country,” she told CNN. “Our relationships with our clients don't end when they are freed. [West] is truly dedicated to the issue. I work personally with her, we are really grateful."
MiAngel Cody, the lead counsel of the Decarceration Collective, was also an integral part of this project, adding that West was a key player in releasing these inmates.
“Kim has been funding this project and (has been) a very important supporter of our 90 Days of Freedom campaign as part of the First Step Act, which President Trump signed into law last year," Cody told CNN. "We've been going around the country in courtrooms and asking judges to release these inmates."
Furthermore, Cody said, West is providing the financial support that many of these inmates need once they are out of jail.
"When people get out of prison, they might be incarcerated hundreds of miles from their families and they might need help getting home. Really important, critical things that people might not realize — and those are things Kim is helping with as well."
While West has, undoubtedly, a long list of inmates she must want to help, Ulbricht’s family made a plea on Facebook that seemed to urge the star to learn about his case.
Ulbricht, the former operator of the Silk Road site, was sentenced by a federal court to life in prison without parole for alleged crimes that in no real sense seem to make him a danger to society.
When the court punished him for a narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, money laundering, selling drugs on the internet, computer hacking, and “engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise,” the judge handed him a sentence that in no way, shape, or form seems fair, even by today’s standards, as explained by former attorney and current Mises Institute President Jeff Deist. Perhaps they were trying to make Ulbricht a martyr for having done something nobody had ever done before, namely stand up to government’s hold on the economy by opening a completely free and unregulated market.
At the time of his trial, Judge Katherine B. Forrest even said that Ulbricht “had to be punished accordingly” for doing the “unprecedented.”
"You are no better a person than any other drug dealer," she bitterly added.
By calling him nothing better “than any other drug dealer,” Forrest openly mocked those who, for a lack of choice or out of despair, turn to drug running as a profession or a side gig.
In a country that criminalizes voluntary transactions and makes criminals out of nonviolent drug providers, real crimes go unpunished. And Ulbricht, the scapegoat, became the ultimate drug dealer.
On Facebook, the Free Ross campaign congratulated West and the Buried Alive Project, saying that more needs to be done to free those who were handed life sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.
“Keep going, there are so many more who need your help,” the post read. “Including Ross who is a non-violent first-time offender.”
The Free Ross project has recently managed to obtain nearly 200,000 signatures for a petition urging President Donald Trump to grant Ulbricht clemency. However, his latest attempt to have his multiple life sentences overruled has just been declared “moot” by a judge.
As Ulbricht’s team works to file a new motion to vacate his sentence by late September, one can only imagine how much heartache he and his family have suffered so far.
If West could, if just for a moment, take a look at his case, would she consider helping?
Charity and the Free Market
In a world deeply troubled by the evils brought upon us by the state and its love affair with tyranny, cases like Ulbricht’s serve as a cautionary tale.
As laws are imposed to further restrict our choices, some of us act on the incentives created by such laws.
Johnson, the grandmother and nonviolent first-time drug offender who can now see her family thanks to West, was one of them. Ulbricht isn’t too different.
Thankfully, the state hasn’t been able to completely obliterate the mechanisms by which the market operates. Charity — and I mean the real kind, not the kind mandated by the state — is still present. And West is a great example of how far one can go if they are passionate about it.
Surely, those moving to free Ulbricht are working with the same love, albeit without a famous backer. And hopefully, his case will get a second chance soon enough.