Kim Kardashian reportedly helped free 17 inmates by funding a prison reform campaign

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ByRachel Simon

Kim Kardashian has made no secret of her desire to become a lawyer so she can fight for prison reform, and it appears she's already making major strides in that regard. According to TMZ, Kardashian and her legal team have recently helped 17 prisoners gain their freedom, with the celebrity apparently funding a campaign focused on getting people serving life sentences without parole for low-level drug offenses out of jail. When contacted by Mic, Kardashian's reps confirmed the report but had no additional comment.

As TMZ reports, the campaign, called 90 Days of Freedom, was launched by Brittany K. Barnett, Kardashian's lawyer and founder of the prison reform-centric organization Buried Alive, and MiAngel Cody, lead counsel for The Decarceration Collective, a law firm that defends life sentenced prisoners and advocates for their humane treatment.

Together, the trio are currently working for the release of prisoners under the First Step Act, the 2018 law allowing for nonviolent offenders to be considered for early release if they display good behavior. Throughout last year, leading up to President Trump's signing of the act into law in December, Kardashian publicly vocalized her support and met with Trump to discuss the reform measure's importance.

And now, 17 people have been released thanks in large part to the efforts of Kardashian and her team. Some of these individuals, like Alice Marie Johnson and Cyntoia Brown, have already seen their cases gain major attention thanks to Kardashian's involvement, but until TMZ's report, the full list wasn't public knowledge. Newly revealed names of former prisoners who were serving life sentences for drug-related charges but are now released include Eric Balcom (who served 16 years), Terrence Byrd (who served 25 years), and Jamelle Carraway (who served 11 years), per TMZ.

Kardashian's prison reform efforts might come as a surprise to some who only know her for her reality show or social media, but the 38-year-old has talked openly about her passion for this issue for awhile, now. It began in October 2018, when she first learned of Johnson's case after watching a Mic Opinion video in October telling the then-63-year-old's heartbreaking story. Upon hearing that Johnson was serving a life sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug charge, Kardashian met with the inmate's legal team and advocated for her release at the White House. Her actions helped lead to Trump granting Johnson clemency, and in the time since, the star has made prison reform a priority by teaming up with 90 Days of Freedom and prominent criminal justice reformer Van Jones.

In April, Kardashian announced that she was studying to become a lawyer, revealing in a Vogue interview that she was enrolled in a four-year apprenticeship with the goal of taking the bar exam in 2022. "I’m sitting in the Roosevelt Room with, like, a judge who had sentenced criminals and a lot of really powerful people and I just sat there, like, Oh, sh*t. I need to know more," Kardashian recalled to Vogue, explaining her move to law. Because she doesn't have a college degree, Kardashian is "Reading the law," a practice allowed by four states in the country, including California, that requires her to study 18 hours a week under lawyers Jessica Jackson and Erin Haney and take monthly exams.

It's an impressive commitment, but the star is fully aware that some critics are skeptical of her ability to succeed in the field — or believe that she shouldn't be getting involved in law at all. "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," Kardashian wrote in an April 15 Instagram, above. "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."

By doing just that, Kardashian is helping ensure the freedom of many deserving people incarcerated for extreme sentences unfitting of the crimes they committed.