Kim Kardashian joins VP Harris for criminal justice roundtable with formerly incarcerated Black and brown citizens

Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a roundtable Thursday on criminal justice reform with Kim Kardashian and four Black and brown recipients of recent pardons from President Joe Biden.

The vice president invited Kardashian to hear from formerly incarcerated citizens Bobby Lowery, Jesse Mosley, Beverly Robinson, and Jason Hernandez, who shared their personal stories of how they turned their past with law enforcement into purpose as entrepreneurs and community leaders.

“I’m a big believer in the power of redemption,” said Harris inside the White House Roosevelt Room. “Everybody makes mistakes. And for some that might rise to the level of being a crime, but is it not the sign of a civil society that we allow people a way to earn their way back and give them the support and the resources they need to do that?”

The vice president’s convening marks the final days of Second Chance Month, an observance that raises awareness about the impacts of incarceration and promotes the importance of creating second-chance opportunities for those who have served their time to reenter society as contributing citizens. 

Kardashian, a reality star and years-long criminal justice advocate, said she came to the White House to hear from the four pardon recipients about their journeys through the criminal justice system and learn more about how she can be “helpful” and “amplify” their stories.

“There’s so many people that are in your position that can use the inspiration,” said the 43-year-old starlet. “I’m so honored to be here to continue this fight and to learn more every day. Every visit. Every administration.”

Kardashian is no stranger to the White House. The star famously visited President Donald Trump to advocate for prisoners and formerly incarcerated individuals, including Alice Johnson, who was released from prison after initially serving a life sentence. During her remarks on Thursday, she said her visit to the Trump White House inspired her to go to law school to learn more about how she can help others.

Reality television star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian speaks during a roundtable discussion on criminal justice reform hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on April 25, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

During her remarks, Harris highlighted the actions the Biden-Harris administration has taken to make criminal justice reform more just for Americans, particularly those who are Black and brown. 

The vice president announced the finalization of a Small Business Administration rule that will remove most restrictions on loan eligibility based on an individual’s criminal record. She also highlighted the administration’s expansion of Pell Grants for the people who are currently incarcerated.

Sitting alongside Haris and Kardashian, Lowery, Mosley, Robinson, and Hernandez shared how they first learned about their recent pardons. Each spoke to the joy, some tearfully, about what the relief meant to them and their families.

Mosley, a real estate investor, described the process of filling out the paperwork to apply for a pardon, saying it “wasn’t a hard process.” He shared that he ultimately wants to become a probation officer. Mosley even hinted to the vice president about helping him make his aspirations a reality, to which Harris, in jest, said, “I picked up what you were dropping!”

Robinson, who owns an educational facility that academically prepares children from 14 months to 5 years old, said she had to go to the playground to “scream to the top of my lungs” when she learned that her pardon was approved.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden marked Second Chance Month by announcing pardons for 11 individuals convicted of non-violent drug offenses, including the four who joined Harris on Thursday. Biden also commuted drug-related sentences for five other individuals. 

“Many of these individuals received disproportionately longer sentences than they would have under current law, policy, and practice,” Biden said in a statement. “The pardon recipients have demonstrated their commitment to improving their lives and positively transforming their communities.”

The president added, “The commutation recipients have shown that they are deserving of forgiveness and the chance at building a brighter future for themselves beyond prison walls.”

Biden said his clemency actions, including pardons he issued for non-violent marijuana convictions in October 2022 and December 2023, reflect his “overarching commitment to addressing racial disparities and improving public safety.”

The president vowed to continue reviewing clemency petitions and “deliver reforms in a manner that advances equal justice, supports rehabilitation and reentry, and provides meaningful second chances.”

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks after signing legislation giving $95 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan in the State Dining Room at the White House on April 24, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist, said criminal justice reform actions taken by the Biden-Harris administration present an opportunity to tell a “good story” to the American public as the president and vice president seek reelection in November.

Biden and Harris’ historic win in 2020 came on the heels of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests where as many as 26 million Americans participated in demonstrations calling for police accountability and criminal justice reform following high-profile police-involved deaths of unarmed Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Since entering office, President Biden has sought to take executive actions on criminal justice reform in the absence of legislation from a divided Congress.

“Some parts of the Biden criminal justice reform they would tout include steps to decriminalize marijuana use and possession, executive orders to reform police procedures like chokeholds, and to attempt to end the use of federal private prisons,” said Payne, a former campaign operative for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

In the months leading up to the 2024 presidential election, Payne said Biden and Harris have to make sure their message and record on criminal reform, among other important issues important to Black voters, is “clear and persistent.” 

“Partnering with a high-profile messenger like Kim Kardashian will help them do that,” he noted. 

“It’s important to remind voters who is fighting for whom,” said Payne. “At a time when Donald Trump and his MAGA allies are calling those convicted of crimes on Jan. 6 “hostages,” having the vice president meet with someone notable like Kim Kardashian to discuss criminal justice reform is a helpful split-screen contrast.” 

Payne said Vice President Harris’ Wednesday roundtable also helps “elevate” her on “an issue with great salience in many communities across the country.”

Kardashian thanked Harris for her “deep commitment to second chances” and also thanked President Biden for “all the commutations and the pardons that are happening.” She said creating pathways to make the lives of formerly incarcerated people easier, like providing access to small business loans, is “life-changing.”

At the end of the roundtable, the vice president acknowledged that there remain “many aspects of the system that create obstacles and barriers to people being able to fulfill” their dreams and aspirations. 

She added, “We have to help people earn their way back and invest in their capacity.”

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