February 12, 2020
In the virulently partisan corridors of Capitol Hill these days, believe it or not, both Democrats and Republicans came together to applaud President Donald Trump's remarks on criminal justice reform during his State of the Union speech last week.
Jessica Jackson, chief advocacy officer at REFORM Alliance, says getting the First Step Act passed in 2019 was literally just the initial hurdle in reforming the criminal justice system.
"This is historic criminal justice reform. It's the first step, not the last step. There's still a lot that needs to happen," Jackson told Cheddar.
The REFORM Alliance focuses on advancing criminal justice reform and as its chief advocacy officer, Jackson leads policies aimed at amending outdated probation and parole systems across the U. S. She began her career representing men and women in their appeals who were on California's death row.
Jackson became more involved in criminal justice reform when her husband went to prison for a non-violent crime. "I think this is one of those issues that unless you have somebody who has been impacted in your family you just don't realize how terrible it is," she said.
According to a report from Cornell University and FWD.us, nearly half of adults have had an immediate family member incarcerated for at least one night in jail or prison.
"We are investing billions and billions of dollars every year into a system that is failing at actually making our communities safer," she said.
Jackson is well known as Kim Kardashian West's mentor and says the two first met when West was advocating for Alice Marie Johnson. Johnson, who was granted clemency from President Trump, was also a guest of his during his State of the Union address last year.
"Kim was a fearless advocate in that fight. She went to the White House, got a lot of blowback for it, but really prioritized getting Ms. Alice out," Jackson said.
She says West became more interested in criminal justice reform after that and became an advocate for the First Step Act by encouraging influencers and celebrities to use their platform to push for the bill to be passed.
"As well as helping people when they were coming home from prison, she set up a partnership with Lyft so that people who come home can get rides to their job interviews and go pick up their kids," Jackson said.
West is not the only celebrity who is an advocate for criminal justice reform. Rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill have partnered with the REFORM Alliance to help bring awareness to the organization.
"When you start to have influencers like Jay-Z, Meek Mill, and Kim Kardashian highlighting the issue and lifting it up, you start to reach new audiences," Jackson pointed out.