President Trump's oldest daughter and senior adviser supports the decision to give inmates locked up for nonviolent crimes "second chances." Ivanka Trump's response to Alice Marie Johnson's commutation shows she's on her dad's side when it comes to prison reform. President Trump commuted Johnson’s life sentence a week after Kim Kardashian visited the White House in support of Johnson.
"This Administration believes in second chances for those, like Alice, who have paid their debt to society and we are working w/ Congress on #PrisonReform to benefit millions of America’s most forgotten women and men," Ivanka tweeted on Wednesday.
Johnson, now a 62-year-old grandmother, has served 21 years of a life sentence she received for a nonviolent drug offense. Her case caught Kardashian's attention in October, when the beauty mogul tweeted that Johnson's sentence was "so unfair." After meeting with President Trump, Kardashian thanked him for listening to Johnson's case and tweeted that she hoped he would grant Johnson clemency.
Ivanka hadn't previously vocalized her feelings on the issue, but she was reportedly the first person Kardashian reached out to at the White House. Kardashian then spent months talking to Ivanka's husband, Jared Kushner before a meeting in the Oval Office was arranged, Vanity Fair reported.
Kushner, whose father spent a year in federal prison for tax evasion and other charges, has championed prison reform in the White House, including a bipartisan bill aimed at preparing inmates to re-enter society that passed the House last month. The First Step Act wouldn't change how long people are sentenced for nonviolent crimes, but rather incentivize people behind bars to participate in rehabilitation programs with the possibility of an earlier release date.
“If we can start showing that we can make the prisons more purposeful and more effective at lowering the recidivism rate over time, that may help the people who are trying to make the argument for sentencing reform,” Kushner said earlier this month during a prison reform panel discussion at the White House. He also asserted that America needs to evaluate why it has prisons in the first place. "Is the purpose to punish, is the purpose to warehouse, or is the purpose to rehabilitate?" Kushner asked.
Johnson told Mic last month that she supports Ivanka's and Kushner's prison reform efforts, adding that they've been "amazing in their support and in their advocacy."
The Trump administration has drawn a hard line on prisons, though. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors last year to pursue the toughest possible sentences for people charged with a crime. The move rolled back an Obama-era policy aimed at reducing sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses like Johnson's.
"Our responsibility is to fulfill our role in a way that accords with the law, advances public safety, and promotes respect for our legal system," Sessions wrote in a memo explaining the order. "It is of the utmost importance to enforce the law fairly and consistently."
The White House explained on Wednesday that Johnson's commutation didn't signal a change in the administration's stance on tough prison sentences. In a statement given to CNN, the White House said that although the Trump administration "will always be very tough on crime," it believes that anyone who has paid their debt to society and bettered themselves while in prison deserves "a second chance." Ivanka used the same language in her response to the commutation.
"Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades," the White House said. "Despite receiving a life sentence, Alice worked hard to rehabilitate herself in prison, and act as a mentor to her fellow inmates."