- Kim Kardashian West has helped release over 17 inmates by funding a prison reform campaign.
- The 90 days of Freedom campaign is working to release prisoners under the First Step Act, the 2018 law that allows nonviolent offenders to be considered for early release if they display good behavior, among other requirements.
- The move is one of several others that the reality star turned criminal justice reform advocate has made in recent months.
90 Days of Freedom
Kim Kardashian West has carried on with her commitment to fighting for prison reform. In the last three months, she has been quietly working with a nonprofit law firm to help commute the life sentences of 17 first-time nonviolent drug offenders.
Kardashian West helped fund the 90 Days of Freedom Campaign, which was launched after President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act. The sweeping criminal justice reform bill was signed into law in December and eased mandatory minimum drug sentences, among other things.
The 90 Days of Freedom campaign was started by Kardashian West’s lawyer, Brittany K. Barnett who heads the Buried Alive Project, in partnership with lawyer MiAngel Cody of The Decarceration Collective. Barnett and Cody are utilizing the newly signed First Step Act as grounds for the releases of low-level drug offenders serving life sentences who have displayed good behavior.
“Kim Kardashian has been instrumental in funding the legal fees for vital attorney representation, transportation for newly freed prisoners so they have a ride home to their families and reentry costs related to our clients’ smooth transition back into society,” Cody told CBS News.
Those freed with help from the campaign include Terrence Byrd. Byrd was convicted in 1995 for possession with intent to sell less than a kilo of crack cocaine, or as the Buried Alive Project puts it in its profile of Byrd, “about enough to fill a small sandwich bag.”
According to a report from TMZ, others who were freed include Jamelle Carraway, who served 11 years of a life sentence for cocaine possession, and Eric Balcom, who is now back with his family in Florida after 16 years behind bars on a drug charge.
Barnett praised Kardashian West for her help, telling CNN, “(Kim) has been on the phone as we’ve told clients they are coming home.”
“I think one, she really wants to be taken seriously, so she is really focused on learning the system and the people who are directly impacted,” she added.
Kim’s Focus on Criminal Justice
Kardashian West made headlines last year when she visited President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss criminal justice reform and the case of Alice Marie Johnson. The 63-year-old was a first-time non-violent drug offender who had already served 21 years of a life sentence. About a week after the meeting, the President commuted her sentence.
But Kardashian West’s efforts didn’t stop there, the reality star turned criminal justice reform advocate continued helping others impacted by the prison system like Matthew Charles. Charles was one of the first inmates released under the First Step Act and is widely recognized as one of the faces of criminal justice reform.
Charles was struggling to find a place that would rent to him after his release. Kardashian West stepped in offering to pay his rent for five years, but his application was still denied. Even so, the two hoped his story would shine a light on the obstacles former inmates face after their release.
She has spent many months immersing herself in law, meeting with fellow advocates, inmates, and politicians to learn more about the prison system.
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For the last year, I have immersed myself in learning about the criminal justice system. I visited prisons, met with formerly incarcerated people, and helped with cases of individual injustice – including two death penalty cases. I have met with and am very supportive of Governor Newsom and his decision to help bring an end to the California Death Penalty. Racial bias and unfairness run deep throughout the justice system but especially when it comes to the death penalty. And we should not be okay with the risk that an innocent person could be executed. I hope we can turn toward better solutions that focus more on healing victims of trauma and prioritizing fairness and justice.
In April Kardashian West revealed that she is studying to become a lawyer and plans to take the bar exam as early as 2022. She began a four-year apprenticeship with a law firm in San Francisco last summer.
“I just felt like I wanted to be able to fight for people who have paid their dues to society,” Kardashian West told Vogue. “I just felt like the system could be so different, and I wanted to fight to fix it, and if I knew more, I could do more.”
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Last year I registered with the California State Bar to study law. For the next 4 years, a minimum of 18 hours a week is required, I will take written and multiple choice tests monthly. As my first year is almost coming to an end I am preparing for the baby bar, a mini version of the bar, which is required when studying law this way. I’ve seen some comments from people who are saying it’s my privilege or my money that got me here, but that’s not the case. One person actually said I should “stay in my lane.” I want people to understand that there is nothing that should limit your pursuit of your dreams, and the accomplishment of new goals. You can create your own lanes, just as I am. The state bar doesn’t care who you are. This option is available to anyone who’s state allows it. It’s true I did not finish college. You need 60 college credits (I had 75) to take part in “reading the law”, which is an in office law school being apprenticed by lawyers. For anyone assuming this is the easy way out, it’s not. My weekends are spent away from my kids while I read and study. I work all day, put my kids to bed and spend my nights studying. There are times I feel overwhelmed and when I feel like I can’t do it but I get the pep talks I need from the people around me supporting me. I changed my number last year and disconnected from everyone because I have made this strict commitment to follow a dream of mine – It’s never too late to follow your dreams. I want to thank Van Jones for believing in me and introducing me to Jessica Jackson. Jessica along with Erin Haney have taken on the role of my mentors and I am forever grateful to them both putting in so much time with me, believing in me and supporting me through this journey. This week I have a big torts essay due on negligence. Wish me luck ✨⚖️
Her efforts to help those struggling in the prison system will surely continue. Just law week, Kardashian West celebrated the release of a Miami man who spent over two decades behind bars.
Oxygen Media also recently greenlighted a two-hour documentary that will capture her efforts to free prisoners she believes were unfairly sentenced The project currently has the working title: “Kim Kardashian: The Justice Project.”
Was an Iowa Official Asked to Resign Over His Love of Tupac? He Says He Doubts It
- Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after sending a mass email to all 4,300 employees encouraging them to celebrate Tupac’s birthday.
- AP news obtained 350 pages of emails between Foxhoven and staff, which included quotes, lyrics, or other references to the rapper that he sent in hopes of uplifting his staff.
- The messages were mostly met with praise, but at least one staff member complained.
- Foxhoven was abruptly asked to resign without an explanation other than the office wanting to move “in a new direction,” but he says he doesn’t believe his love of Tupac was the reason for the decision.
Foxhoven Asked to Resign
A former Iowa official, who many believe was fired over his love of Tupac Shakur, says he thinks his firing had nothing to do with his support of the rapper.
Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after he sent a mass email to employees celebrating Tupac.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press issued a report that said it had obtained emails that showed Foxhoven routinely sent messages to employees about Tupac. According to AP News, the agency released 350 pages of email with the words “Tupac” or “2Pac” in then, which were sent to and from Foxhoven’s account during is two-years on the job.
The mass email in question was sent on June 14 and was sent to all 4,300 agent employees. In it, Foxhoven reminded employees that Father’s day was just a few days away and coincided with Tupac’s birthday. He encouraged staff to celebrate by listening to one of his songs and included what he said was an “inspiration quote” from the artist: “Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means that you are 2 steps ahead.”
Along with celebrating the rapper’s birthday, Foxhoven also noted that he was celebrating his two-year anniversary as director and thanked the staff for their work.
The following workday, Governor Kim Reynolds’ chief of staff asked him to resign.
Here is the email 66 year old Jerry Foxhoven sent to his staff, the day he was fired.— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
He notes 2Pac’s bday is also Father’s day
“Hard to believe he has been gone for almost 23 years”
By all accounts, a kind email pic.twitter.com/ohSxSVpzJL
Longrunning Love For Tupac
Foxhoven says he had been a huge Tupac fan since the ‘90s. “I’m a 66-year-old white guy from the Midwest who likes rap music, who likes Tupac!” he told NPR.
Foxhoven hosted weekly “Tupac Fridays” to play his music in the office and even celebrated his 65th birthday with Tupac-themed cookies, including ones decorated with the words “Thug Life.”
OMG he had a birthday party and his staff, knowing his love for tupac, brought him tupac themed baked goods 😭 pic.twitter.com/T3Fk76ASo3— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
However, he was also known to quote other celebrities in holiday-themed messages. In other emails, Foxhoven marked the anniversary of the rapper’s death and sent a Valentine’s day message that shared lyrics and quotes about love.
Jerry celebrates Valentine’s Day with, you guessed it: more Tupac quotes for his 4,000 staff at the Iowa Department of Human Services pic.twitter.com/Z208dgYmjT— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
Foxhoven also allegedly told employees that Tupac’s lyrics inspired him to improve the company’s culture, specifically pointing to lyrics like “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”
Many praised Foxhoven for using his love of hip hop music to lift up the workplace, “I love your 2Pac messages,” one manager wrote June 14. “And the fact that you still send them (despite the haters) makes me appreciate them even more.”
“You are such a breath of fresh air Jerry!” another staff member wrote. “Thanks for all you do, to lift us up and help us feel better about what we do than we have felt in a long time!”
However, not everyone was a fan of the messages. According to AP News, at least one person complaining to lawmakers last year about them.
Motivation For Firing Unclear
Foxhoven’s departure comes after numerous controversies at the agency including difficult contract negotiations with companies that run the Medicaid program, a trial concerning alleged mistreatment of boys at a state juvenile home, and an increase in deaths at a center for the disabled.
While it hasn’t been confirmed that Foxhoven was pushed to leave over various Tupac messages, the timing is making many suspicious. Employees have been speculating that the two must be linked, thought Foxhoven has said they might not be.
In a text message to AP News, he said believed that the governor had made the decision to “go in a different direction” before he sent his mass email. He said he wasn’t given a reason for the resignation request, but added that he doubted Tupac was a factor.
“I think it’s a coincidence,” Foxhoven told The New York Times in a phone interview, adding that the governor’s office had requested a meeting with him days before he sent the email.
“I always try to assume the best of everybody, and I can’t imagine that [the governor] would base her decision on the Tupac incident,” he told NPR. “If this is the reason, I’m really disappointed.”
However, Foxhoven also told NPR that his tenure at the Department of Human Services ended without warning or a chance for an orderly transition. He said he was not even granted a meeting with Reynolds and added that the governor’s chief of staff confiscated his cellphone and ID cards on the spot, ordering him not to return to his office.
Foxhoven also said that many directors do not serve long terms and said that his two-year tenure meant that he had outlasted many of his predecessors. Foxhoven, who had previously worked as a lawyer, professor, and children’s rights advocate, told the Times that he believed Reynolds was simply filling posts with “more political people.”
Pat Garrett, a spokesperson for the governor, told the AP: “As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction.”
According to the AP: “The governor’s office has refused to elaborate on those factors, despite an Iowa law that requires state agencies to release the “documented reasons and rationale” when employees resign instead of being terminated.”
For now, Gerd W. Clabaugh, the director of the Department of Public Health, will serve as interim director of human services.
As for Foxhoven, he told NPR that he was glad his emails are making headlines because it allows for discussions about stereotypes and music. He then noted being especially upset by a recent story about a 17-year-old teen in Arizona who was fatally stabbed by a man who said the victim’s rap music made him feel “unsafe.”
“It’s important for us to break down those stereotypes: if you listen to rap music, you’re a criminal or dangerous. It’s not true at all,” he said., adding that he hoped his situation could lead to “having open discussions about race and what we have in common, instead of what separates us.”
See what others are saying: (AP News) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Bill Pickett to Lil Nas X: The Untold Story of Black Cowboys…
Cowboys are the ultimate Americana. They are an image ingrained in our culture and ever-present in film and television throughout the years. There are old western movies starring John Wayne, the classic TV show The Lone Ranger, and famous outlaws like Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy. What you may not know, however, is some of these classic images have actually whitewashed the real history of cowboys in the American West.
Because while most of our classic references of cowboys are traditionally white men, many cowboys weren’t white. Historians estimate one in four cowboys in the wild west were black. This is the untold story of black cowboys in the American West.
Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Discriminated Against Openly Gay Official, Jury Finds
- On Monday, an eight-person jury in Polk County, Iowa found that former governor, Terry Branstad, discriminated against a state official because of his sexual orientation.
- The former official, Chris Godfrey, filed the lawsuit against Branstad as well as other officials in the state of Iowa in January 2012.
- After seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the jury awarding Godfrey $1.5 million for emotional distress.
- Branstad resigned as Governor in May 2017, after he was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to China, a role he still holds.
A jury in Iowa awarded former state official Chris Godfrey $1.5 million after they determined that he had been discriminated against for his sexual orientation by the governor at the time, Terry Branstad.
Godfrey, who was Iowa’s commissioner of workers’ compensation, filed a lawsuit against Branstad, the state of Iowa, and other state officials in January 2012. Court records show that after seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the decision to award Godfrey.
The former state official was awarded $1 million for being denied his constitutional due process rights and another $500,000 for the discrimination and retaliation he faced.
How This Happened
Godfrey was appointed Iowa’s workers’ compensation commissioner in 2006 and was reappointed just before Terry Branstad became Iowa’s governor in 2011. Godfrey says that once Branstad came into office, he asked Godfrey to resign from his role. The state official refused and as a result, his salary was cut by almost $40,000.
In Iowa, a commissioner holds their position for 6 years to protect it from partisan politics. However, the governor is able to ask a commissioner to step down from their role and if that request is refused, the governor can reduce the commissioner’s pay. According to local reports, Godfrey was one of 29 appointees Branstad asked to resign when he came into office.
Throughout the lawsuit, Branstad insisted he did not know Godfrey’s sexual orientation and asked him to resign due to concerns that businesses had.
However as the case continued, Branstad later admitted that Godfrey had only received positive reviews.
When the lawsuit went to trial in June 2019, Godfrey’s lawyer argued that he was shunned by Branstad’s office because he was the only openly gay man working as an executive at the time. The attorney noted specific examples, like how Godfrey was not invited to a retreat for Branstad’s department heads and executive staff.
In addition to Godfrey, other officials in Iowa have spoken out about Branstad, like current Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy.
During the trial, McCoy testified that Branstad’s administration was a “men’s club,” and added that “being gay in 2011 through 2015 was not an easy thing and [Godfrey] was definitely experiencing discrimination.”
As for Godfrey, he explained that the lawsuit for him was about getting justice. “After I had been asked to resign twice, after my pay was slashed, I felt obviously personally attacked, I needed justice,” he told the court.
What happened to Branstad?
As for the former governor, in December 2016 he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to China by President Donald Trump. Branstad was later confirmed in May 2017, after a vote 82 to 13, and he resigned as governor two days later.
According to The Economist, Branstad and China’s ambassador are “old friends,” which is considered a great compliment in Chinese culture. The two met in 1985 during Branstad’s first term as Iowa’s governor. The article notes that in 2015, Iowa’s agricultural exports to China made up $1.4 billion of the $2.3 billion exported from the U.S.